- Wimbledon barred Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the 2022 Championships.
- A Russian tennis player changed nationality to Georgian so she can compete at Wimbledon next week.
- Natela Dzalamidze told Insider she was a dual citizen and the change would let her compete in the 2024 Olympics.
A Russian tennis player changed her nationality a week before Wimbledon, allowing her to compete in the tournament.
Natela Dzalamidze, 29, is set to compete alongside Serbian player Aleksandra Krunic in the women’s doubles at the prestigious Grand Slam. She is ranked 44th in the world in women’s doubles.
Wimbledon barred players from Russia and its ally, Belarus, from competing following the invasion of Ukraine, but the Championships were powerless to stop Dzalamidze.
Dzalamidze told Insider that she already had a Georgian passport and was a dual citizen.
She said she had discussed the nationality change with the Georgian Tennis Federation for years, adding: “This decision has been made because I have the chance to represent Georgia at the Olympic Games in Paris,” which is set to take place in 2024.
She said she wouldn’t have been able to do so for Russia because its “team is very strong.”
The International Tennis Federation verified Dzalamidze’s Georgian passport before Wimbledon’s entry deadline last week, The Times of London reported.
“Player nationality, defined as the flag they play under at professional events, is an agreed process that is governed by tours and the ITF,” a spokesperson for the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which hosts Wimbledon, said Insider.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club, International Tennis Federation, and Women’s Tennis Association did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Dzalamidze competed under a neutral flag at the French Open, Eurosport reported.
Wimbledon’s ban was criticized
The AELTC announced in April that players from Russia and Belarus would be banned from Wimbledon, which starts June 27.
“It would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with the championships,” the AELTC said in a statement at the time.
The move received mixed responses and was criticized by players as well as the ATP Tour and Women’s Tennis Association, which are responsible for the elite men’s and women’s tennis tours respectively, as Insider’s Will Martin reported.