Tennis-Svitolina wants continued Wimbledon ban on Russian, Belarusian players

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - WTA 250 - Monterrey Open - Club Sonoma, Monterrey, Mexico - March 1, 2022 Ukraine's Elina Svitolina before her first round match against Anasatsia Potapova REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

(Reuters) - Ukraine's Elina Svitolina said on Friday that the ban on Russian and Belarusian players competing at Wimbledon must continue after they were excluded from last year's championships.

Wimbledon barred players from the two countries due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, a decision which was swiftly condemned by the men's and women's tours as well as Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova.

However, Svitolina, the 2019 Wimbledon semi-finalist, said nothing had changed from last year's reason for the ban.

"I hope they will do the same thing and keep the ban in place. I don't think it should change," the 28-year-old Svitolina was quoted as saying by the BBC on Friday.

"There are still people suffering and still Russian soldiers killing innocent Ukrainians. The war is still there. The decision should not be any different."

The French, U.S. and Australian Open Grand Slams allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals.

Wimbledon has yet to announce if the ban it imposed last year will continue. Wimbledon organisers The All England Lawn Tennis Club were not immediately available to comment.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus, which aided President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago, have been largely banned from international competitions since.

Moscow says it is defending its own security and denies accusations of widespread atrocities in Ukraine.

Svitolina on Wednesday called for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Svitolina, married to fellow player Gael Monfils, reached a career-high ranking of world number three in 2017 but has not played since giving birth to her first child last year.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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