The war in Ukraine shakes the world of tennis



More than the refreshing journey of the French squad, which ended with the elimination in the third round, Saturday May 28, of Léolia Jeanjean, Alizé Cornet, Gilles Simon and Hugo Gaston, it is the other red thread of this Roland-Garros 2022. Between two matches, the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 continue to fuel discussions in the locker room. These concern Parisian clay less than London grass, since the ATP and the WTA, the two associations which govern the men’s and women’s circuits, announced on Friday May 20 their intention to compensate for the ban given by Wimbledon organizers to Russian and Belarusian players to participate in this next Grand Slam tournament (from June 27 to July 10).

→ THE FACTS. War in Ukraine: Wimbledon, the first tennis tournament to ban Russian athletes

The fear of a political recovery of Moscow in the event of a Russian victory – all the more plausible since the world No. 2, the Russian Daniil Medvedev, like the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, semi-finalist last year, appeared on the list favorites – had motivated the decision of the management and the English tennis federation, a month ago. The two authorities then stuck to the “position taken by the British government to limit the external influence of Russia”they said in their press release.

Consequences on the world ranking

A strong decision for the tennis family, which had until then taken its time to align itself with the banning of Russian and Belarusian players, recommended at the end of February by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and followed by most sports federations in the world. world. But who immediately lent the flank to criticism, from the Russian players themselves, who judged her “discriminatory”and from the world number one, Novak Djokovic, to those less accustomed to the spokesperson, such as the Spaniard Rafael Nadal, prompting the ATP to oppose in turn what it described as“unjust”.

As a result, the latter has chosen not to distribute to all the players in the future London fortnight any of the points which are usually due to them according to their career in the competition and which serve as the basis for the world ranking. This last resort reduces, in fact, the most prestigious of the four Grand Slams to a simple friendly tournament, without sporting consequences for the rest of the season, far from satisfying the circuit insofar as the players, who must defend at each tournament the points they had earned there a year earlier, will lose these units without being able, this time, to earn any. “I will go from 60th to 130th in the world. Thanks ! », preferred to irony on social networks the Hungarian Márton Fucsovics, quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2021.

Former president of the ATP players’ council, Novak Djokovic showed himself to be more understanding after his first round at Roland-Garros: I’m glad the players and the ATP got along, to show the Grand Slams that when they make a mistake, and Wimbledon made one, there are bound to be consequences. » The Serb, as defending champion, would lose the most points, and could find himself in a position to lift his seventh trophy across the Channel while being ejected from his seat as world number one… by Russian Daniil Medvedev. Faced with this incongruity, some headliners, like the Japanese Naomi Osaka, come to ask themselves the question of their participation.

ridge line

More than the controversy surrounding the awarding of these points, the debate recalls the crest line on which the world of sport has been toggling since the war in Ukraine, between the desire not to give propaganda material to the Kremlin, that of not stigmatizing however, Russian and Belarusian athletes themselves foreign to the conflict, and the ability to reassure Ukrainian players. “We don’t want to punish the individual”, recalled at the beginning of May Amélie Mauresmo, the director of Roland-Garros, where the Russians were able to evolve under a neutral banner.

Asked about this hybrid position before the start of the tournament, Elina Svitolina, the best Ukrainian player in the ranking, described to Release the atmosphere ” odd “ felt by his compatriots on the circuit: We expected to receive more support (…), few Russian and Belarusian players came to see us or sent us messages. It’s sad. Already before we didn’t have great ties with them, now it’s nothing. »

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The return to form of Marin Cilic

“I figured he wasn’t missing much. » Eliminated in the third round of Roland-Garros by Marin Cilic, Gilles Simon greeted on Twitter the new victory of the Croatian, Monday, in the round of 16. Because no one saw coming the correction inflicted in less than two hours by the former world number three (6-2, 6-3, 6-2) to the Russian Daniil Medvedev, second in the ATP ranking. At 33, Cilic reaches a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time since 2018, eight years after his surprise US Open title. “I’m here for a long time”, he warned before his match on Wednesday against Andrey Rublev. The Croatian can see a good run in Paris, in a half of the table where Stefanos Tsitsipas no longer appears, disgusted Monday by the young Danish phenomenon Holger Rune.

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