the main points:
- Tennis Australia said the Russian flag was removed after security spoke to spectators who were displaying it.
- The Russian and Belarusian flags were initially allowed in the World Open as long as they were not used to cause disruption.
- But Tennis Australia banned them after placing the Russian flag on the court during Monday’s match.
Spectators have been caught violating Tennis Australia (TA)’s new ban on displaying the Russian and Belarusian flags at the Australian Open.
TA initially allowed spectators to bring Russian and Belarusian banners into Melbourne Park, as long as they did not cause any disruption.
But that policy was reversed on Tuesday morning after the Russian flag was displayed prominently on the field during a match involving Ukrainian player Kateryna Bendel.
Just hours after the ban was implemented, fans raised the Russian flag during the match between Russia’s fifth seed Andrey Rublev and Austria’s Dominic Thiem at the John Kane Arena (JCA).
“spectators waved a prohibited flag during a game at the JCA on Tuesday,” a TA spokesperson told news agency AAP.
“The sponsors were spoken to by security and the flag was raised.”
Spectators display the Russian flag during the first round match between Katerina Bendel of Ukraine and Kamila Rakimova of Russia at the Australian Open. Source: AAP, supplied / Asanka Brendon Ratnayake
In view of Players from Russia and its ally Belarus were allowed to compete in the Australian Open, provided they played under a neutral flag.
TA’s initial policy was that fans could bring the Russian and Belarusian flags as long as they were not used to cause disruption
But she banned them after the Russian flag appeared during her three-set bindl match against Russia’s Kamila Rakimova on Monday, which drew condemnation on social media from .
“The ban will be effective immediately,” TA said in a statement Tuesday morning.
“We will continue to work with players and fans to ensure this is the best possible environment to enjoy tennis.”
Earlier, the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations (AFUO) said the prominent display of the flag made a “ridicule” of the conditions set by Tennis Australia.
“TA has clearly said that Russian tennis players cannot represent the flag of Russia. They must play ‘as independent players’ under a neutral name,” said co-chair Stefan Romaniu.
“How does this make sense? Why would a Russian flag be allowed in the courts?”
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tennis players from Russia and Belarus were kicked out of the Billie Jean King Cup, Davis Cup, and but were allowed to compete in other major tournaments as neutral athletes.
Similar bans were imposed in other sports including track and field, soccer, and figure skating.
During the war, Romaniu said, some Ukrainian athletes were fighting on the front lines, while others could not visit their homeland.
“While Russian missiles fly, Ukrainian athletes are fighting on the front lines,” he said.
“In April 2022, the tennis center of the Ukrainian Tennis Federation outside Irpin was destroyed by the Russian military, and Ukrainian tennis players cannot visit their country to live, train or visit family.
“These are not normal times.”
With additional reporting by the AAP.