The LTA declared in April that it would be following the precedent set by other organizations including FIFA, UEFA, and Eurovision by banning Russians from competing in high profile international events, in order to render the Russian state a sporting and cultural outcast following President Vladimir Putin’s devastating invasion of Ukraine.
The United Nations estimates that almost five million people have fled Ukraine since the assault began across land, air, and sea in late February, while cities including Mariupol, Kharkiv and Kyiv have been decimated by shelling. Belarusian players have also been banned due to their nation’s practical support for the invasion.
A statement from the All England Club released at the time read: ‘Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible. ‘
Nadal, however, believes that the war has nothing to do with the players who will not be allowed to take part, including Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Aryna Sabalenka.
‘I think it’s very unfair [on] my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues, ‘the Spaniard said. ‘It’s not their fault what’s happening at the moment with the war. At the end of the day, what happens in our game, it doesn’t have any importance when we can see so many people dying and suffering and seeing the bad situation they are having in Ukraine. ‘
Nadal is playing his first tournament in six weeks at the Madrid Open after suffering a stress fracture of a rib at Indian Wells in March. His loss to Taylor Fritz in the final, when he was clearly physically hampered, ended his 20-match winning streak to start the season. Now the 35-year-old is playing catch-up to reach peak fitness in the time for the French Open, which he was won on 13 previous occasions.
‘Talking about the injury, I’m recovered, I feel good,’ he said. ‘Talking about my tennis game and preparations, well, it’s a completely different story.
‘Anyone who has broken a rib knows how limiting it is, very painful, especially the first weeks. I wasn’t able to do anything without a lot of difficulties, even to fall asleep because of the pain.
‘I have improved compared to when I came here but I still have up and downs because it’s been a long time without being in these kind of situations and it’s going to be a difficult week, for sure.’
The 2022 Wimbledon Championships will begin on Monday 27 June.
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