Russian Tennis Pro Finds a Way to Dodge Wimbledon Ban

Natela Dzalamidze changes nationality to Georgian to get around ban spurred by war in Ukraine
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2022 7:11 AM CDT
Russian Tennis Pro Finds a Way to Dodge Wimbledon Ban
The sign on the gates at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, where preparations were underway for the Wimbledon tennis tournament in London on June 25, 2021.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Since the war in Ukraine, Russians have faced fallout—especially in the sports arena, where Russian athletes have been increasingly banned. One athlete, women's tennis pro Natela Dzalamidze, has decided she doesn't want her country of origin to get in the way of her chances to play in Wimbledon, which has banned Russian and Belarusian players, so the 29-year-old has just made a big move: She's now officially Georgian, dumping her nationality to get around the restriction, reports CNN. On the Women's Tennis Association website, the Georgian flag already appears besides Dzalamidze's name and bio.

That means Dzalamidze, who's ranked No. 43 in the world and is a two-time winner on the main WTA tour, will now be able to play with doubles partner Aleksandra Krunic when Wimbledon starts next week. The All England Club announced its ban in mid-April, stating that "it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with the championships," per the London Times. The All England Club now finds itself on the defensive after Dzalamidze's eligibility reversal, noting that it was powerless to stop the nationality swap, as the WTA and International Tennis Federation give the thumbs-up for that.

"Player nationality, defined as the flag they play under at professional events, is an agreed process that is governed by tours and the ITF," a club spokesperson says. The Times notes both Dzalamidze's first name and surname are actually of Georgian origin, though it's not clear what her ties to that country are. Wimbledon is the only one of the sport's grand-slam tourneys to have banned Russians and Belarusians. The tournament starts Monday and runs through July 10. (Read more tennis stories.)

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