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Countries Not Able to Play in Tennis Because of Politics

By: Grace Liu

Tennis and politics do not get along well. This year, some tennis players couldn’t participate because they didn’t have a Covid-19 vaccination, tennis matches being banned in China, and Wimbledon did not allow any Russian or Belarusian players to participate because of the war in Ukraine.

Brad Gilbert, a tennis player and coach, feels sympathetic towards Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian players. He understands Wimbledon’s powerful position as a private club. “You have to realize that Wimbledon is a private, member-owned club,” Gilbert said by phone last week. “The tournament is not run by a national federation the way the Australian, French and U.S. Opens are. Wimbledon makes its own decisions. They don’t answer to anyone.”

This has happened before many times in history. The United States Tennis Association recently announced that the Russian and Belarusian players could play at the United States Open, but not under their country.

Cliff Drysdale is a tennis player from South Africa. He competed in the Davis Cup in 1964 where protesters threw rocks and lied on the court, so the organizers moved the match to a secret location with no spectators.

In 1974, Jimmy Connors might have won the Grand Slam, but he was not allowed to play at the French Open because he had signed a contract to play for World Team Tennis. The French Open said that World Team Tennis took away players from tour events.

Gilbert decided to play in South Africa in multiple tennis matches, even though he was advised not to because of political issues going on in 1983-1988.

“It was probably the wrong thing to do. At 22, what did I know?” said Gilbert, referring to when he first played in South Africa. “I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. Brad Gilbert now wouldn’t go there. I understand now that politics and sports can’t help but be intertwined. Back then I was just dumb.”

Link to Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/25/sports/tennis/wimbledon-politics-history.html

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