17th January, 2023
Tennis Australia on Tuesday banned the display of Russian and Belarusian flags at the Australian Open following an incident on day one of the tournament.
Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to compete at the 2023 Australian Open but must do so under a neutral flag in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Fans were initially allowed to bring Russian and Belarusian flags to Melbourne Park as long as they did not cause disruption, however, Tennis Australia (TA) reversed the policy on Tuesday morning.
On Monday, a Russian flag was prominently displayed courtside during the first-round clash between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova.
The Ukrainian athlete went on to win the contest in three sets.
Agency photographs also showed a Russian flag displayed in the stands of Rod Laver’s arena.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, blasted the display on Twitter, calling on TA to “immediately enforce its ‘neutral flag’ policy.”
“Flags from Russia and Belarus are banned onsite at the Australian Open,’’ TA said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our initial policy is that fans could bring them in but could not use them to cause disruption. Yesterday we had an incident where a flag was placed courtside. The ban will be effective immediately.’’
Flags of other countries are still allowed to be displayed.
Russian and Belarusian players were banned from competing at Wimbledon in 2022 due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also excluded Russia and Belarus from team competitions such as the Davis Cup.