The US Open tennis tournament, which starts in New York on August 29, will allow Russia and Belarus players to participate, the organisers announced on Tuesday (June 14).
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who is the world no. 1, is the defending champion at the US Open.
The decision to allow the two countries’ players comes after Wimbledon had banned them from taking part this year.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February and the war is ongoing. Russia was banned from several sporting events including the Wimbledon and FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Belarus too faced sanctions as it aided Russia in the war.
In an official statement, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) said it will allow Russia and Belarus players to compete but only under a neutral flag.
“The USTA will allow individual athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in the 2022 US Open, but only under a neutral flag… the USTA will allow all eligible players, regardless of nationality, to compete at the 2022 US Open,” it said.
“Alongside the other Grand Slams, the ITF, the ATP and the WTA, the USTA, which owns and operates the US Open, has previously condemned, and continues to condemn, the unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia,” it added.
Explaining its decision, the USTA said, “The USTA, standing with these other tennis entities, supported the banning of the Russian and Belarusian Tennis Federations from the ITF, and therefore all international team competitions, and the directive for players from those countries to play under a neutral flag when competing outside of international team competitions.”
The USTA said it will contribute to Ukrainian humanitarian efforts. “The USTA will work with the players and both Tours to use the US Open as a platform to further the humanitarian effort of the “Tennis Plays for Peace” programme. In addition, the USTA will introduce a broad, comprehensive set of initiatives to amplify existing Ukrainian humanitarian efforts, including committing to significant financial support, for which details will be announced soon.”
Mike McNulty, USTA Chairman of the Board and President, said, “Tennis has done much through Tennis Plays for Peace for humanitarian support of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the need for help only continues to grow. The USTA will be responding very soon with a broad set of initiatives that will include significant financial assistance and other programmes to further support humanitarian relief and the people of Ukraine.”