Wimbledon to house Ukraine’s players, fund relief efforts

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The All England Club will pay for two rooms for Ukrainian players and their teams during the grass-court season and will donate 1 British pound (about $1.25) for each ticket sold at Wimbledon to relief efforts in Ukraine – which could top 500,000 pounds ($620,000) – after deciding to allow players from Russia and Belarus back into the tournament despite the ongoing war.

Club chairman Ian Hewitt said at Tuesday’s annual spring news conference for the oldest Grand Slam tournament that letting Russians and Belarusians compete at Wimbledon after banning them a year ago because of the invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022 was “probably the most difficult decision during my chairmanship.”

Hewitt and club chief executive Sally Bolton said Wimbledon will not be broadcast in Russia or Belarus, and their media will not be allowed at the tournament this year. They also said flags or sign of support for either of those countries and the war will be barred from the grounds and that players have started signing a declaration that they will not show support for Russia, Belarus or the war in Ukraine, a requirement for them to participate.

On other topics, Hewitt and Bolton said:

– In-match coaching from the stands will be permitted during Wimbledon for the first time on a trial basis;

– Roger Federer, who won eight of his 20 Grand Slam titles at the All England Club and retired last year, will be celebrated in some way during this year’s tournament;

– Billie Jean King and other members of the Original 9 will be honored on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the WTA women’s tour;

– men’s doubles will be reduced from best-of-five-set matches to best-of-three-sets.

On March 31, the All England Club sent out a statement announcing it would let players from Russia and Belarus enter Wimbledon this year “as ‘neutral’ athletes and complying with appropriate conditions.” The club said those players would be prohibited from expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and from receiving funds from Russia or Belarus or “companies operated or controlled by” those two countries.

Among the players now eligible to return to Wimbledon: Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who is ranked No. 2 and won the Australian Open for the year’s first Grand Slam title in January, and Daniil Medvedev of Russia, a former No. 1 who won the 2021 U.S. Open title.

Others include Victoria Azarenka, a two-time major champion and former No. 1 from Belarus, and Karen Khachanov, a two-time major semifinalist and former member of the top 10 from Russia.

Since Russia, with help from Belarus, first launched its attack more than a year ago, their athletes have been held out of various team sports competitions, including the men’s World Cup in soccer and the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup in tennis. Tennis tournaments outside of Britain have allowed individual Russian and Belarusian players to compete as “neutral” athletes – their nationalities are not listed in the official brackets, results or graphics on TV broadcasts of matches.

Main-draw action at Wimbledon begins this year on July 3; the women’s singles final is July 15, and the men’s is July 16.

In April 2022, the All England Club said it would ban Russians or Belarusians from entering Wimbledon. That drew immediate criticism from the WTA and the ATP, along with some prominent players, such as Novak Djokovic, and led the two tours to say in May that they would withhold all of their rankings points from Wimbledon, an unprecedented move.

At French Open, Francisco Cerundolo is mad at chair umpire over Holger Rune’s double-bounce

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PARIS – Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina was devastated about losing his French Open fourth-round match to Holger Rune of Denmark in a fifth-set tiebreaker Monday. He also was mad at chair umpire Kader Nouni for missing a double-bounce of the ball on a point that was awarded to Rune early in his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) victory.

They were tied at a set apiece and on serve at 2-1 for the No. 6-seeded Rune early in the third at Court Suzanne Lenglen when the point of contention happened. Cerundolo, who was serving at deuce, hit a forehand that skidded low at the baseline and quickly bounced a second time – which normally would have meant that the point was his.

But Rune went ahead and got his racket on the ball, sending it back over the net. At about the same time, No. 23 seed Cerundolo was saying “sorry” to apologize for the odd way his forehand made the ball skim across the clay. Nouni was not immediately aware of the double-bounce, thought the ball was still in play and called Cerundolo for hindrance for talking during a point. That meant Rune got the point, and when he won the next one, too, he had a service break.

“It was unbelievable, because it was a clear double-bounce. I was mad at the umpire because he has to see it,” Cerundolo said. “It’s his fault.”

In tennis, electronic line-calling is used at many tournaments to make line calls, but replays are not used to check things like double-bounces or whether a point should be lost because a player touches the net, which is not allowed.

And while Cerundolo put the onus on the official, he also thought Rune could have ceded the point because of the double-bounce.

“For sure, I wish he would have done that, because it was a big moment,” Cerundolo said.

Rune, who moved into a matchup against No. 4 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, said he saw a replay after the following point, and “saw it was a double bounce. But the point already happened, and he called the score. So I felt sorry.”

But, Rune added: “This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires, they make mistakes. Some for me; some for him. That’s life.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

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PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.