Russian tennis player Aslan Karatsev has left fans confused after sporting a Wimbledon t-shirt during his preparations for the Madrid Open. Karatsev is among a host of Russian and Belarusian players who have been banned from competing at SW19 this year in response to Vladimir Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine.
The All England Club (AELTC) announced the ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors earlier this month. Novak Djokovic was among those to bite back at the decision, as the 20-time Grand Slam champion warned about the dangers of letting politics interfere with sport.
While out in Madrid, Karatsev provoked confusion as he sported a t-shirt with a Union Jack and the word ‘Wimbledon‘ across the front. Fans have been left puzzled as to whether it was a sarcastic dig at the AELTC, or whether he supports their crackdown against President Putin.
The Russian leader launched a military assault on neighbouring Ukraine back in February which has been condemned by 140 nations across the world. Millions have been forced to flee the country as thousands pile up on the conflict’s death toll.
Karatsev is out in Spain gearing up for the Madrid open, with the men’s singles draw set to get underway on May 3. Currently ranked just outside the world’s top 30, the 28-year-old powered all the way to the Australian Open semi-finals last year but is yet to advance further than the second round at Roland Garros.
He could have the chance to put that right when the French Open commences in May, as tennis journalist Luigi Gatto claims that the tournament are set to permit Russian and Belarusian competitors. There has been no official statement on the matter yet, however.
“We believe we have made the most responsible decision possible. We believe [given Government guidance] there is no viable alternative in this truly exceptional and tragic situation.”
Alongside Karatsev and Rublev, other prominent Russian and Belarusian tennis stars to be affected by the ruling include Daniil Medvedev, Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka and Karen Khachanov.