Members of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) have ratified the sanctions placed on Russia and Belarus, meaning the pair continue to be suspended from the organization and all team events held under its auspices.
The ITF confirmed the step on Monday following a virtual extraordinary general meeting held last week.
The head of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, had already indicated to local media that the step had been taken, although it was only formally announced by the ITF this week.
“In a virtual Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) held on Friday 6 May by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), member nations ratified the ITF Board’s 1 March 2022 suspension of the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) and the Belarus Tennis Federation (BTF) as ITF members,” read a message shared on the ITF website.
“This also confirms that both nations are ineligible to enter ITF international team competitions. The ITF Board withdrew all ITF events from Russia and Belarus on March 1 until further notice.”
It noted, however, that its policy continued to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete in individual international tournaments but strictly under a neutral status.
“Under this policy, no Russian or Belarusian national insignia or symbol, flag, anthem, nor any sign of patriotism is permitted,” said the statement.
Russian tennis official Tarpischev said last week that the majority of ITF members had backed the sanctions against Russia and Belarus, which were initially unveiled at the outset of the conflict in Ukraine.
“It’s about a temporary suspension. We won 20 percent of the votes in support, theoretically, we could have done more, we needed two-thirds to avoid a suspension,” Tarpischev said.
Tarpischev has argued that the main thing at present is for Russian and Belarusian players to be allowed to compete as individuals.
“In fact, we [the Russian Tennis Federation] been suspended for two months now, we have been living like this since March,” said the official.
“But [in this situation] the main thing is not us, but that our tennis players are performing, albeit in a neutral status Everyone understands who they represent.”
While players such as Russian men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian women’s world number eight Aryna Sabalenka are free to appear on the ATP and WTA tours as well as the upcoming Grand Slam at the French Open, officials at Wimbledon have gone against the grain by banning all players from the two countries this summer.
That stance – which bosses at the grass court showpiece have defended as being in line with UK government policy – has earned Wimbledon widespread condemnation in the tennis community.
The ITF’s position is not as excessive, but nonetheless means that the Russian teams cannot defend major international titles which they won last year.
Back in December, Russia’s men lifted the Davis Cup for the first time in 15 years when they defeated Croatia in the final in Madrid.
Their female counterparts won the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly the Fed Cup) in November after overcoming Switzerland in the final in Prague – Russia’s first triumph in the competition since 2008.
Since Moscow launched its military offensive in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus have faced increasing isolation from global sporting events after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended that no athletes from the two countries be invited to compete.