Would world No 2 Daniil Medvedev be prepared to criticise Vladimir Putin in order to play at Wimbledon this summer? The question remains unanswered after Medvedev skilfully blocked inquiries on this subject in Miami.
For the moment, Medvedev and his fellow Russians have been allowed to continue playing as individuals in ATP and WTA tournaments, even though their flags do not appear on scoreboards and they are officially classed as neutrals.
But while the war in Ukraine feels less overwhelmingly present while the players remain on the east coast of America, the issue is likely to boil up again when they move to Europe in a couple of weeks’ time.
Last week, the British sports minister Nigel Huddleston increased the pressure around Russian involvement in tennis by suggesting that their players might have to make some kind of political declaration in order to participate in Wimbledon.
“I think we need to have some assurance that they are not supporters of Vladimir Putin and we are considering what requirements we may need to get assurances along those lines,” Huddleston said, before adding that he had discussed the issue with the All England Club.
Asked about Huddleston’s comments, Medvedev replied: “I try to take it tournament by tournament. I don’t have any response to Wimbledon. I will need to see what happens next.”
Medvedev was playing in Acapulco last month when the invasion of Ukraine began. He responded with a social-media statement saying “I want to ask for peace in the world, for peace between countries.”
His answer was similar on Thursday when he was asked if the war was becoming increasingly difficult to block out. “I think everybody knows what’s happening, so it’s impossible to ignore it,” he replied. “You know, I always said I’m for peace.”
It seems, however, that the British government may demand a more specific comment than these general themes. Without something stronger, they could yet refuse Medvedev access to Wimbledon. This would place him in an awkward position, for any direct criticism of Putin could have repercussions for family and friends who still live in Russia.
Asked whether he thought it unfair that sole traders should suffer because of the actions of their national leaders, Medvedev again trod carefully. “It’s very tough in life to talk what is fair and not fair,” he said.
“So I of course do have my own opinions on different topics, but I prefer to speak about them with my family, with my wife, where we can sometimes disagree but we can discuss.”
Medvedev has recently been displaced from the world No 1 ranking, after losing to Gael Monfils in the third round of Indian Wells ten days ago.
This week, the leading ATP player is once again Novak Djokovic, although Medvedev could move back to the top again by reaching the semi-finals here in Miami. He is due to open his campaign against the winner of the first-round match between Andy Murray and Federico Delbonis, which was contested overnight.