Credit: Twitter

Credit: Twitter

The Prague Open has stated that Russian and Belarusian players will not be able to participate in the upcoming Prague Open tournament, officials said on Friday. The announcement followed news that a Russian player was prevented from entering the Czech Republic by authorities for the Open. This was following a new government mandate by the Czech Republic not to let any Russian or Belarusian players participate in sporting events held in the country, and the Prague Open officials informed other athletes from the region to not travel.

It was originally expected that Belarusian and Russian players would be allowed to participate under a neutral flag, but the Czech government increased scrutiny of athletes following recent escalations in the Ukrainian war. Players like Evgeniya Rodina of Russia or Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus were set to compete at the Open. In June the government voted to ban Russian and Belarusian players and authorized Czech police to confiscate visas if necessary. Central and Eastern European countries have been the most vocal allies of Ukraine during the Russian invasion. Last week a Russian player was banned from participating in a Polish tennis tournament.

The decision was a result of Czech intervention, not WTA rules

This decision comes as a result of government intervention rather than from the WTA, which allows players from Russia and Belarus to compete under neutral flags and colours.

The WTA stated, “Individual WTA players whose nationality is Russian/Belarusian continue to compete on the Tour on a neutral basis. Despite their neutrality, some WTA players are being denied by Czech government authorities the ability to compete at the WTA 250 event scheduled to be held in Prague next week. WTA rules state that all players must be allowed to compete on the WTA based solely on merit, without discrimination. We will continue to review the situation as we factor important considerations around these complex geopolitical issues.”

Despite saying they will continue to monitor the situation, it is unlikely that the WTA will be able to do anything about the decision as it is a federally decided issue. In the past, the organisation has also been critical of Russia’s geopolitics, stating “[the WTA] emphatically condemns the war in Ukraine” and “continues to support the Tour’s Ukrainian athletes – as well as all WTA athletes – who face immense challenges as professional athletes while many of their loved ones and their country face attacks from Russia.”