By Harry Mottram: There were high hopes at Wimbledon this week with Team Bath Tennis player Alicia Barnett and women’s doubles partner Olivia Nicholls in the first round of the Ladies Doubles when they took on a pair of Russians.
Barnett and Nicholls lost out 0-6, 3-6 to the Russian duo of Liudmila Samsonova and Veronika Kudermetova in a match delayed by two days due to rain earlier in the week on Court 6.
They made a disappointing start failing to win a game in the opening set but picked it up in the second set but ultimately lost the match as the Russians proved just too strong.
The Russian players are allowed at Wimbledon as long as they play as neutrals and along with their support staff they have signed neutrality agreements. These agreements mean the players and staff agree not to represent Russia or Belarus, they are not allowed funding from their nations, and they will not express support for the invasion of Ukraine or their home governments.
However there was controversy over one of the Russian players whose coach and father has links to the Government of President Putin – currently engaged in a war of aggression in Ukraine. Veronika Kudermetova also plays singles at Wimbledon and at a post match press conference she spoke of her awkward relationship with the Ukrainian players. She said: “I say hi to them. I say hi. Some people, they reply; some not,” she said in her post-match press conference. We are here just a tennis player. It’s like that.”
That doesn’t wash with some at the competition despite the neurality agreements. The Guardian reported: “Ukraine’s No 1 tennis player, Anhelina Kalinina, who has previously spoken of the horrors of the invasion, refused to shake hands with Daria Kasatkina, Russia’s highest-ranking woman, after a defeat at Eastbourne.” While The Mail Online reported that Veronika Kudermetova was happy to meet with sanctioned Putin ally Rustam Minnikhanov to collect a tennis award last December. And she is sponsored by Tatneft the Russian firm company, (now sold) but was previously sanctioned for manufacturing and supplying tyres to Vladimir Putin’s army. The Ukrainians have been more sympathetic to Daria Kasatkina who has come out as gay and has criticised Russia over its strict laws on LGBTQ+ rights and said she cannot return to her home as she would be in fear of arrest.
Alicia Barnett is from Gloucestershire and is coached at Team Bath at the University, by Ian MacDonald (aka Macca) while her doubles partner Olivia Nicholls is from Norfolk.
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