Iga Swiatek believes tennis missed an opportunity to send a strong message to Moscow by failing to impose a ban on players from Russia and Belarus.
Wimbledon was the only Grand Slam to ban players in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year but said last week they would now accept them as neutral athletes.
The 2022 ban was the first time in tennis players were excluded from a tournament on the grounds of nationality since the post-World War Two era, when German and Japanese players were barred from the championships.
World No 1 Swiatek believes tennis “could do a bit better”.
“After World War Two, German players were not allowed as well as Japanese and Italian [players], and I feel like this kind of thing would show the Russian government that maybe it’s not worth it,” the Pole told the BBC.
“We are just athletes, a little piece in the world, but sport is pretty important and sport has always been used for propaganda … Tennis, from the beginning, could do a bit better in showing everybody that tennis players are against the war.
“Tennis didn’t really go that way, but now it would be pretty unfair for Russian and Belarusian players to do that because this decision was supposed to be made a year ago.”
Players from Russia and Belarus have been competing on the tours and at other Grand Slams as neutral athletes since 2022.
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who won this year’s Australian Open, has said she struggled to understand the “hate” in the locker room and Swiatek described the locker room atmosphere as “pretty tense”.
“It’s not their fault they have a passport like that … their situation is pretty complicated, and it’s hard for them to speak out loud about it,” the 21-year-old added.
“On the other hand, we all have some kind of impact and anything that would help stop the Russian aggression, we should go that way in terms of the decisions the federations are making.”