Wimbledon has lifted its ban on players from Russia and Belarus ©Getty Images

Wimbledon has lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian players and will allow them to play at this year's Championships - subject to them competing as "neutrals" and complying with "appropriate conditions".

The grass court tournament at the All England Club was the only Grand Slam to deny entry to Russian and Belarusians last year following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

This led to significant criticism from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), which both fined Britain's Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

Officials also stripped Wimbledon of its ranking status and the LTA was reportedly threatened with losing warm-up tournaments, including the Queen's Club Championships and Birmingham Classic, if it kept its ban in place.

No players from Russia or Belarus who "receive funding from the Russian and/or Belarusian states" will be allowed to enter, including sponsorship from state-controlled companies.

Players from Russia and Belarus will be allowed back under certain conditions ©Getty Images
Players from Russia and Belarus will be allowed back under certain conditions ©Getty Images

Expressions of support for the invasion will also be banned.

Wimbledon said the conditions had been "carefully developed" through "constructive dialogue" with the UK Government, the LTA and international stakeholder bodies in tennis.

They are "aligned with the Government's published guidance to sporting bodies in the UK", a statement said.

The Grand Slam added that in its view, personal player declarations on the war were "not viable" last year.

"Since then, extensive engagement with the Government and tennis stakeholder bodies has clarified and developed the form of declarations and produced workable measures for their implementation and enforcement," it said. 

"This approach has the full support of the Government and the LTA, ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation."

Wimbledon is due to be held between July 3 and 16 this year.

Players in line to return include Russia's world number five Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion from Belarus.

"There was a strong and very disappointing reaction from some governing bodies in tennis to the position taken by the All England Club and the LTA last year with consequences which, if continued, would be damaging to the interests of players, fans, the Championships and British tennis," Wimbledon said.

"Tennis events outside of the UK have experienced a year of competition with players from Russia and Belarus competing as 'neutral' athletes. 

"We also consider alignment between the Grand Slams to be increasingly important in the current tennis environment."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board this week recommended that individual Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to return to competition, if they are not openly in support of the war or affiliated to the military.

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka is among those in line to return ©Getty Images
Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka is among those in line to return ©Getty Images

Thomas Bach, the IOC President, had been among those to criticise Wimbledon's ban which he said was a form of political interference after the UK Government had advised the action.

"We continue to condemn totally Russia's illegal invasion and our wholehearted support remains with the people of Ukraine," said Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club.

"This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted.

"It is our view that, considering all factors, these are the most appropriate arrangements for the Championships for this year. 

"We are thankful for the Government's support as we and our fellow tennis stakeholder bodies have navigated this complex matter and agreed on conditions we believe are workable.

"If circumstances change materially between now and the commencement of the Championships, we will consider and respond accordingly."

Japan's Naomi Osaka described Wimbledon as an "exhibition" after the tournament lost its ranking points.

The women's singles was ironically won last year by a player born in Russia, as Elena Rybakina triumphed while representing Kazakhstan.