Bombshell reports have claimed the royal family’s worst fears for Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, are the real reason Wimbledon has gone rogue.
The nightmare scenario of a Russian player being presented the Wimbledon championship trophy by the royal family is reported to be behind the tournament’s bombshell news this week.
The world’s most prestigious tennis tournament announced all Russian and Belarusian players have been banned from competing at the 2022 tournament as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.
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Russian men’s world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian female world No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka — a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year — are the leading players affected by the ban.
The situation continued to deteriorate on Friday with world number eight Andrey Rublev blasting Wimbledon over what he claims is a case of “complete discrimination”.
Belarus officials also said the decision will only “incite hatred” and threatened legal action to have the sanction overturned.
Twenty-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic also labelled the ban “crazy”.
Wimbledon is not backing down.
The Telegraph now reports tournament officials were motivated by the “optics” nightmare of putting a member on the royal family in a position where they would have been pressured into presenting a trophy to a Russian player.
Last year, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, presented the championship trophies to ladies’ singles winner Ash Barty and gentlemen’s singles winner Djokovic.
Middleton, who is the royal patron of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, is expected to perform the duty of presenting the winners their silverware when the tournament begins on June 27 — as is customary.
Wimbledon chiefs spoke to the British government earlier in April to discuss whether they should follow a similar policy to the men’s and women’s professional tours.
Players from Russia and Belarus have been able to compete on the ATP and WTA tours since the war in Ukraine started, but they have not allowed to use their national flags.
The Times now reports Wimbledon made the controversial decision to ban Russian players out of fear the Duchess of Cambridge could be used as a propaganda victory for Russia.
The report claims government officials did not force Wimbledon to make the decision.
A government source told the newspaper there were fears the trophy presentation could have been a “sportwashing” victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, has said from the start it is acting to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible”.
“We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt said.
The tournament said in its first statement: “In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players,” an AELTC statement said.
“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.”
The decision has provoked outrage in Moscow, with British administrators accused of using sport to play political games. “Once again they simply turn athletes into hostages to political prejudice, political intrigues,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “This is unacceptable. Taking into account that Russia is a very strong tennis country, our athletes are at the top of world rankings, the competition itself will suffer from their removal.”
ATP and WTA bosses claim the Wimbledon ban is discriminatory and sets a damaging precedent.