Russian and Belarusian players who speak out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “should be allowed” to compete at Wimbledon, says Elina Svitolina.

On Wednesday the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) banned players from the two countries from competing at this year’s tournament.

Governing bodies the ATP and WTA described the decision as “unfair”.

“We don’t want them banned completely,” Ukrainian Svitolina told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.

“If players don’t speak out against the Russian government then it is the right thing to ban them.”

On Thursday, Russian world number eight Andrey Rublev said the Wimbledon ban is “complete discrimination” and “illogical”.

Shortly after the war started in February, 24-year-old Rublev appealed for peace when he signed a camera lens with a “no war please” message at the Dubai Tennis Championship.

Svitolina added: “We just want them to speak up, if they are with us and the rest of the world or the Russian government. This is for me the main point.

“If they didn’t choose, they didn’t vote for this government, then it’s fair they should be allowed to play and compete.”

Svitolina said she did not agree with the governing bodies’ reaction to Wimbledon’s decision, saying the organisations had not reacted “as quick as we wanted”.

On Wednesday she released a lengthy statement calling on them to take a harsher stance against Russian and Belarusian athletes.

But tennis legends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, along with men’s world number one Novak Djokovic, have said they cannot support Wimbledon’s decision.

“We can see there’s been sanctions for Russian people. Why should tennis players be different. I don’t think they’re right,” said Svitolina.

With friends and family still in Ukraine, Svitolina said her emotions are “up and down” and tennis is no longer her “main focus”.

She said: “There are many Russian players who can do more. I can count one hand how many Russian and Belarusian players who have asked me how I’m doing, how is my family, is everyone safe?

“That’s why I feel a bit sad about this situation. Personally some people should do a little bit more than they’ve done. It’s mysterious.

“The way Russian and Belarusian players have been is very, very sad. We are colleagues who see each other every week so it’s shocking to see this change and so quick.”


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