WTA hits back at Czech Republic for banning Russian tennis players

The Women's Tennis Association has expressed surprise at the stance of Czech authorities on the eve of the Prague Open.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 29.07.2023 12:20:00 (updated on 29.07.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has expressed surprise and concern over the decision of Czech authorities to prevent the participation of Russian and Belarusian players in the upcoming Prague Open tennis tournament.

Despite being neutral athletes, female tennis players from these countries were denied entry into the tournament due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, with an unnamed Russian athlete refused entry to the country at Prague Airport yesterday.

In a statement on Twitter, the WTA first condemned the war in Ukraine and the actions of the Russian government, pledging continued support for Ukrainian athletes and other players facing challenges amidst the conflict.

However, the organization was taken aback by the Czech authorities' move to bar Russian and Belarusian players from the WTA 250 tournament, as it goes against the WTA's principle of allowing players to compete based solely on merit, without discrimination.

The ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes' participation in Czech territory was approved by the government in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. While Belarus was not actively involved in the conflict, it allowed Russia to launch attacks from its territory, leading to the ban.

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The situation escalated when an unnamed Russian player was denied entry at Prague's Václav Havel Airport by the Czech border authorities yesterday. As a result, Prague Open organizers anticipated that no other players from Russia or Belarus would be able to participate in the tournament.

This includes Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus, who was slated to compete in the main singles competition, as well as Russia's Diana Shnaider, Polina Kudermetova, and Erika Andreeva, who were set to play in the qualifiers. Another Russian player, Evgeniya Rodina, had already withdrawn earlier due to an injury.

The WTA's stance on the matter was challenged by former hockey goalkeeper Dominik Hašek, who supported the actions of Czech authorities. Hašek took to Twitter to assert that the players from Russia and Belarus are representatives of their countries' actions, which he characterized as a war of aggression with severe consequences, including genocide.

Hašek held the WTA responsible for allowing these players to participate, claiming that it indirectly contributes to the ongoing conflict and loss of lives.

This is not the first instance of such a restriction. Last week, Poland's border authorities denied entry to Russian player Vera Zvonareva for the Poland Open tournament in Warsaw, citing security concerns.

However, other Belarusian and Russian female tennis players have been allowed to compete under a neutral flag and without state symbols in various WTA tournaments since the invasion of Ukraine last year.

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