IOC invites 8 Russian tennis players, 2 from Belarus to compete as neutrals at Paris Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC invited eight top Russian tennis players plus Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka from Belarus on Thursday to compete as neutral athletes at the Paris Olympics — though some already declined the expected offer.

The Russian men invited to compete in the Olympic tournament at Roland Garros from July 27-Aug. 4 are No. 5 Daniil Medvedev, No. 6 Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov and Roman Safiullin.

The Russian women — Daria Kasatkina, Liudmila Samsonova, Ekaterina Aleksandrova and Mirra Andreeva — are ranked currently from No. 14 to 24, respectively.

Sabalenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, already said she will skip the Olympics to avoid switching from Wimbledon on grass, back to clay at the Olympics, then to hard courts in August ahead of the U.S. Open. Rublev has reportedly cited health reasons to not go.

Tennis is the latest of the Olympic sports to have invitations to Paris confirmed as part of a vetting process to let some athletes from Russia and its military ally Belarus compete with neutral status in individual sports during the invasion of Ukraine.

The International Olympic Committee is overseeing vetting to block athletes who expressed support for the Russian invasion or had ties to sports clubs linked to the military or state security services.

Russia and Belarus already are excluded from team sports at the Paris Games that open July 26.

The IOC announced this month that a first round of 14 Russians and 11 Belarusians were eligible and invited to Paris, including in cycling, weightlifting and wrestling. Some invitations have been declined.

On Thursday, two athletes in rowing and two in shooting from Belarus were invited to compete in Paris, though none in modern pentathlon. Russia did not have entry quota places in those three sports.

It is still unclear how many Russian athletes will compete at the Olympics. The IOC already barred those that do from taking part in the opening ceremony parade of athletes scheduled on boats sailing along the River Seine.

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AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games