Russia's Aslan Karatsev raises eyebrows for sporting Wimbledon T-shirt in Madrid
Russian tennis player Aslan Karatsev has left fans confused after sporting a Wimbledon t-shirt during his preparations for the Madrid Open.
Russia's Aslan Karatsev has got tennis fans talking after spotting the tennis star wearing a T-shirt with the words' Wimbledon' written in bold, the British flag and a silhouette of himself serving at a practice court ahead of next week's Madrid Open.
The gesture from Karatsev, who reached the Australian Open semifinals in January last year, comes just a week after the All England Club (AELTC) announced the ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors amid Moscow's full-blown invasion of Ukraine.
Tennis enthusiasts have raised eyebrows over this gesture. They now wonder if sporting a Wimbledon T-shirt amid the ban is a sarcastic dig at the AELTC or whether he supports their crackdown against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
There's also a dedicated website, teechip.com, which sells these T-shirts under 'Aslan Karatsev Wimbledon T-shirt Classic' for both men and women for 18.34 pounds. The T-shirt also comes in white, athletic heather, ash, gold, burnt orange, classic pink and light blue. The website also offers sizes ranging from S to 6XL.
Last week, Wimbledon officials announced Russian and Belarusian players would be barred from taking part in the prestigious tournament, which begins in June, sparking widespread outrage.
The ban means the likes of US Open champion and World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, World No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka and World No. 8 Andrey Rublev will not be playing the grass-court Grand Slam.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic labelled the tournament's decision 'crazy', while 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova believes the sanction was 'the wrong decision'.
All England Lawn Tennis Club chairman Ian Hewitt publicly defended the decision affecting Wimbledon 2022. He said, "At the outset, we believe this is an extreme and exceptional situation that takes us far beyond the interests of tennis alone."
"Russia's ongoing invasion, leading to catastrophic harm for millions of lives in Ukraine, has been condemned worldwide by over 140 nations, government, industry, sport and creative institutions are all playing their part in efforts to limit Russia's global influence, including any benefit from trade, cultural or sporting shows of strength," Hewitt added.
"As part of that response, the UK government has set up directive guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK with the specific aim of limiting Russia's influence. We have taken that directive guidance into account as we must as a high-profile event and leading British institution," Hewitt concluded.
Aslan Karatsev is gearing for the Madrid Open, slated to begin on May 3. Currently ranked just outside the world's top 30, the 28-year-old powered to the Australian Open semifinals, where he was defeated by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
Karatsev's best performance at the grass-court Grand Slam came last year when he reached the first round. The Russian star, who is yet to advance further than the second round at Roland Garros, will be hoping to make amends this year, provided the French Open permits Russian and Belarusian competitors. There has been no official statement on the matter yet, however.