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Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will be forced to compete under a neutral flag in the upcoming U.S. Open, according to a statement from the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
The USTA made the announcement on Tuesday due to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. Belarus has served as one of Russia’s main allies in the invasion.
“Alongside the other Grand Slams, the ITF, the ATP, and the WTA, the USTA, which owns and operates the U.S. Open, has previously condemned, and continues to condemn, the unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia,” the USTA’s statement read.
“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,” it added.
The USTA, in its capacity as owner and operator of the U.S. Open, had previously banned the Russian and Belarusian Tennis Federations from the ITF. To allow individual athletes from the two nations to compete, players from those countries must play under a neutral flag when competing outside of international team competitions, according to the USTA.
The U.S. Open is scheduled for August 29 to September 11 in New York City. The popular event claimed an attendance of 631,134 people in total in 2021.
The 2021 U.S. Open set a new record in prize money and total player compensation, with $57.5 million on offer in 2021 in the first year following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mike McNulty, USTA Chairman of the Board and President, shared the association’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“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 programs to further support humanitarian relief and the people of Ukraine,” he said.
The move comes after Russia was restricted from two international team events in tennis in which it was the reigning champion, the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup.
Wimbledon, which begins June 27, announced in April that it would ban all Russian and Belarusian athletes. The move barred men’s top-ranked player, Russian Daniil Medvedev, from the competition.
The USTA’s approach has also been different from other athletics organizations. Some sports, such as soccer’s World Cup, have completely banned Russia from competition.
The USTA also announced plans to offer additional financial assistance for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. The association intends to use the U.S. Open as a platform to raise awareness about the war.
“This is a horrific situation and we, along with everyone else in tennis, absolutely condemn what is an unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and everything is framed in that context,” U.S. Tennis Association CEO and Executive Director Lew Sherr said. “As difficult as some of these decisions may be, none of it amounts to the difficulties being experienced in Ukraine right now, and the tragedies and atrocities.”