Russian flags banned at Australian Open following criticism from Ukrainian ambassador | Australian Open 2023
Russian flags have been banned from the Australian Open after a fan’s decision to display one during the opening day of tennis at Melbourne Park drew strong criticism from the Ukrainian ambassador.
As in many other sports, Russian and Belarusian tennis players are competing under a neutral banner at this year’s tournament due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Fans had initially been allowed to show their support for players from both countries, but not in a way that “could cause disruption”, according to Tennis Australia (TA).
A Russian flag was visible in the crowd during Kamilla Rakhimova’s first-round match against Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl on Monday, prompting calls from Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand for action to be taken.
TA on Tuesday confirmed a policy reversal that will now see flags from Russia and Belarus banned anywhere onsite at Melbourne Park for the rest of the year’s first grand slam.
“Our initial policy was that fans could bring them in but could not use them to cause disruption,” the statement said. “Yesterday we had an incident where a flag was placed courtside. The ban is effective immediately. We will continue to work with the players and our fans to ensure the best possible environment to enjoy the tennis.”
Baindl won her opener against Rakhimova 7-5, 6-7 (10), 6-1 on the outer court 14 at Melbourne Park, where the Russian flag could clearly be seen hanging on a fence. The Ukrainian ambassador, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said he strongly condemned the gesture.
Russian and Belarusian players were banned from taking part in last year’s Wimbledon tournament as global sporting sanctions were brought against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. That decision led to ranking points won by other competitors at the tournament being stripped, and the payers from both countries are free to play this year’s Australian Open, albeit under a white flag.