Russian, Belarusian players allowed at National Bank Open, for now

Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, returns to John Isner, of United States, during their semi-final match at the National Bank Open men's tennis in Toronto on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. Cole Burston/CP

Russian and Belarusian players will be allowed to participate in the upcoming National Bank Open tennis tournaments this August in Toronto and Montreal, at least for now.

Tennis Canada told The Canadian Press there is no outright ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from playing in the tournaments. The statement was in response to an announcement Wednesday that players from those countries will be barred from taking part in the prestigious Wimbledon tournament near the end of June because of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

"Tennis Canada will follow the recommendations and decisions made by the ATP and WTA regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian players,'' Tennis Canada said in a statement. "Right now, players from these nations are allowed to compete in international tennis events on Tour but they cannot compete under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice.''

That means Russian stars like men's world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and No. 8 Andrey Rublev, as well as women's No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, would be eligible to play in the National Bank Open. Tennis Canada, however, hasn't ruled out the possibility of that changing.

"Like we've been doing since the beginning of the conflict, we will continue to monitor the situation and will respond accordingly in collaboration with tennis' governing bodies,'' the organization said.

"Tennis Canada stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and we send our thoughts to all the Ukrainians living inside or outside the country. We really hope that peace will soon prevail.''

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge penned a letter in March saying Canada won't agree to Ukraine's request that it stop issuing new travel visas and work permits to Russian and Belarusian athletes. St-Onge recommended national sports organizations to take guidance from their respective international sports federation.

The National Bank Open men's tournament will take place from Aug. 5-14 in Montreal, while Toronto will see the women play from Aug. 6-14.

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