Russia-born doubles player Natela Dzalamidze claims that she chose to switch nationality to Georgian before Wimbledon announced that all Russian and Belarusian players would be banned from this year’s tournament.
The All England Club’s stance – taken in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – has led to the tournament being stripped of ranking points.
However Dzalamidze, who is ranked 43rd in the world in women’s doubles and competed in the French Open last month under a neutral flag, has evaded the ban.
Russia-born Natela Dzalamidze will play at Wimbledon after changing nationality to Georgian
The 29-year-old is listed as being from Georgian on Wimbledon’s entry list after her switch was approved by the WTA on June 6, seven days before the SW19 entry deadline.
She was born to a Russian mother and Georgian father and has held a Georgian passport for the last six years.
‘I am definitely against the situation which is going on in Ukraine,’ Dzalamidze told The Times. ‘I am for peace all around the world and I believe that in the 21st century people are able to find a diplomatic way to solve the problems.
‘But my decision was made because I am focusing on my career and would like to have the chance to compete at the Olympic Games.
The 29-year-old will partner Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic in the women’s doubles in SW19
‘Of course it was not the easiest decision because now is not an easy time. The first discussion I had with the WTA was during Indian Wells at the beginning of March. It was before Wimbledon made a decision to ban Russian players and was just because my idea was to start representing the country and to have a chance at the Olympics.
‘If I made the decision to play for Georgia and have a chance to play Wimbledon, why not? That’s why I made it [the decision] before Wimbledon. In this kind of situation, there isn’t a perfect time to do it.’
Dzalamidze has entered the main draw at Wimbledon on two previous occasions but failed to make it past the second round. She was beaten in the first round of the women’s and mixed doubles at Roland Garros in May.
She will partner Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic in the women’s doubles at the All England Club this year.
In a statement, Wimbledon said it has no involvement in players’ change of nationality: ‘Player nationality, defined as the flag they play under at professional events, is an agreed process that is governed by the tours and the ITF.’
Dzalamidze says it is ‘super unfair’ that Russian players like Daniil Medvedev will be banned
This year’s tournament begins on June 27, with Russian world No 1 men’s singles player Daniil Medvedev among those barred from taking part.
‘I feel so disappointed for all other Russian sportspeople who are not competing,’ Dzalamidze said in her interview with The Times. ‘Other than tennis and chess, most sports have banned Russians, which I think is super unfair because none of them have done anything.
‘This is not the mistake of professional athletes. As a sportsperson I have always had a close relationship with Ukrainians. People want to hear something from us but we do not have an influence on this situation.’