Novak Djokovic is welcome at Australian Open, says tournament director; Russian and Belarusian players can compete after all
The world’s best players are under pressure to play in a “safe environment” after a number of high-profile court cases and scandals forced the sport’s governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to postpone the 2018 Australian Open from April 25 to May 18.
With tennis now facing another court case over a rule that bans players with a history of disciplinary problems from competing on the main tour, the ITF’s ruling to exclude all players with a history of drug offences will continue to be debated.
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But while the decision to postpone the competition was met with the usual outrage from tennis fans around the world, a key element of the decision – the ban on Russian and Belarusian players – is now likely to be upheld.
“This is a great result for the sport. This decision will further the values of integrity and fair play, while protecting the integrity of the sport,” Ivan Lendl said after the final day of the five-day tournament. “The ban has been decided by the ITF and will stand.”
The Russian and Belarusian players in question are Mikhail Youzhny and Evgeny Platov, who were banned in 2015 for a range of doping offences in what the players and ATP saw as overblown. They were reinstated earlier this year for the tournament, but Youzhny and Platov have each had to leave the grounds for drug tests.
It was an astonishing development in how tennis deals with doping, with US grand slam organisers USTA saying the decision to include the two Russian and Belarusian players in the draw had been taken “without any due consideration for the welfare of players, officials, tennis fans, or members of the public”.
The situation has led to calls for another round of talks over other reforms to the sport.
While players like L