Saturday, January 28, 2023

Australian Open bans Russian and Belarusian flags

MELBOURNE, Australia ( Associated Press) – The Russian and Belarusian flags will not be allowed at the Australian Open after spectators displayed various flags on the opening day of the season’s first Grand Slam.

The display of flags is generally permitted during matches at Melbourne Park. But the Australian Tennis Federation reversed the rules for both countries involved in the invasion of Ukraine that began nearly a year ago.

“In principle our rules establish that fans can carry (flags), but they cannot use them to cause disruption,” the federation said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Yesterday we had an event where a flag was placed at the side of the court. We will be keeping in touch with the players and our fans to make sure we have the best possible environment to enjoy tennis.

A Russian flag was raised during Ukraine’s Katarina Bandel’s 7-5, 6-7(8), 6-1 match against Russia’s Kamila Rakhimova on Court 14 on Monday.

In another match, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev received a flag to sign after defeating American Marcos Giron 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena on Monday.

Following her victory in the first round on Tuesday, Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka commented that she preferred that politics and sport not mix, but she understood the Australian federation’s decision.

“If it’s something that’s best for everyone, then fine,” said Sabalenka, a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist and fifth seed at Melbourne Park. “I have no control over it. What can I say? Done. OK. No flags.”

Sabalenka was one of a handful of players from Russia and Belarus who were unable to compete at Wimbledon and other tournaments such as the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup last year because of the war in Ukraine. In February Russia invaded with the help of Belarus.

Russian and Belarusian tennis players were allowed to compete in other Grand Slam tournaments as “neutrals”, so their nationalities were not identified.

Nation World News Desk
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