Russian player Andrey Rublev said it is "crazy that so many just normal citizens are suffering" ©Getty Images

Andrey Rublev of Russia has repeated his call for peace in Ukraine on his return to the Dubai Tennis Championships, where he lost to compatriot Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Mixed doubles Olympic gold medallist Rublev was among the first Russian athletes to speak out against the full-scale invasion of Ukraine when he wrote "no war please" on a camera at this tournament in the United Arab Emirates last year, which he went on to win.

Competing as a neutral - the highest-ranked men's player affected by the ruling on Russian and Belarusian players at sixth in the world - Rublev again expressed his exasperation at the war in Ukraine.

"Of course it's tough," the 25-year-old said.

"It's hard to talk about it because even if you try to just play tennis or something, to stay practising and stuff, you know it's affecting you.

"You cannot act like nothing is happening because it's horrible.

"It's crazy that so many just normal citizens are suffering, dying.

"The only thing I hope is that soon there will be peace in every country."

Russian player Andrey Rublev won the Dubai Tennis Championships as a neutral last year, and created headlines with his plea for
Russian player Andrey Rublev won the Dubai Tennis Championships as a neutral last year, and created headlines with his plea for "no war please" ©Getty Images

Rublev beat men's singles Olympic champion Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-3, 7-6 in the semi-finals to reach the final of the Association of Tennis Professionals 500 event, while Medvedev beat Serbia's world number one Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4.

However, Medvedev registered a superior 6-2, 6-2 win over Rublev to claim the title this year.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes are excluded from international events because of the war in Ukraine since February last year, but the men's and women's professional tours have allowed players to continue competing as neutrals.

They have been able to take part in all of the Grand Slams except Wimbledon, with the ban leading to fines imposed on organisers and criticism from IOC President Thomas Bach.

Rublev suggested that he would consider changing his citizenship if the Wimbledon ban was repeated at other tournaments.

He was the subject of alleged verbal abuse at the Australian Open in January from spectators holding a Ukrainian flag in his second-round victory against Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori.

The IOC has cited the example of tennis' tours in defending its divisive move to "explore a pathway" for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to competitions.