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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday December 7, 2022

 
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The ATP is playing hardball with the LTA levying a $1 million fine in response to the LTA banning Russian and Belarusian players from British tournaments last summer.

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December is typically a time for tennis to press pause ahead of the New Year.

These days, there's no cease fire in sniping between the game's governing bodies.

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The ATP is playing hardball with the LTA imposing a major $1 million fine in response to the LTA banning Russian and Belarusian players from British grass-court tournaments last summer.

The ATP hit the LTA with the $1 million fine consisting of a $200,000 fine for each of the five grass-court tournaments—Queen's Club, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley.  The ATP also fired a warning shot saying if the LTA takes similar action in 2023, then it runs the risk of losing its Tour membership.

The men's tennis association fine comes after the WTA hit the LTA with a $750,000 fine on July 4th for banning Russian and Belarusian players from women's events in Birmingham, Nottingham and Eastbourne. Last spring, the LTA joined the All England Lawn Tennis Club in banning Russians and Belarusians in response to Russia's unprovoked attack on neighboring Ukraine. 

Tennis Express

The LTA struck back in a terse statement today saying it was "deeply disappointed" by the ATP's action.

The British tennis association slammed the ATP for essentially sticking its head in the sand and ignoring the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which the LTA called "a surprising lack of empathy."

"The LTA is deeply disappointed with this," the LTA said in a statement. "The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government's response to that invasion.

"The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules - with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced."

On April 20th, Wimbledon announced it banned Russian and Belarusian players from the 2022 Championships in condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the All England Lawn Tennis Club announced.

The Championships announced given "Russia's illegal actions" it "would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships."



The grass-court bans were criticized by some players, including Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic and Grand Slam king Rafael Nadal. The Tours permit Russians and Belarusian players to compete under no national flag.

The Tours responded to Wimbledon's ban by stripping the grass-court Grand Slam of all ranking points. Both the ATP and WTA said breaking rules, as the LTA and Wimbledon did, must carry consequences.

Both the ATP and WTA say they are defending their players and their rules from an unjust action taken by the LTA that punishes players who have nothing to do with the war.

In fact, Russian's Andrey Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova have both spoken out publicly against Russia's invasion of Ukraine and called for peace. Rublev has since called Wimbledon's relationship with the ATP "toxic" because of its ban.



The LTA counters by exerting their muscle the Tours are potentially crippling the growth of the game in Great Britain imposing massive fines that will impede British tennis' ability to invest in the sport.

"The financial impact of both this fine and the WTA's fine will have a material impact on the LTA's ability to develop and host tennis in this country," the LTA statement said. "For example, we had intended to host a number of ATP Challenger level events to give more opportunities to lower ranked players in the first quarter of 2023 and will now not be able to do this, particularly given the possibility of further fines."

It's a complicated issue, so where does this imbroglio go from here?

The LTA announced it will appeal the fine as it considers all options in its ongoing battle with the ATP and WTA.

"We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA's decision and sanction," the LTA said in a statement.

It's possible one or both Tours could reduce the fines on appeal, however clearly there's still much work to be done to heal the rift between the pro Tours and LTA.

 

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