Tennis Australia has banned Russian and Belarusian flags at the Australian Open after a number of fans sparked outrage on the opening day on Monday. The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia 'strongly condemned' the actions of a fan who displayed a Russian flag during a women's match between a Russian and Ukrainian player.
Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia was playing Kateryna Baindl of Ukraine on Monday when a Russian flag could be seen in the crowd. Russian players are allowed to compete at Melbourne Park, but are doing so under a neutral flag. Channel 9 have been displaying a white symbol next to Russian players' names on scoreboard graphics, rather than the Russian flag.
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Vasyl Myroshnychenko, the Ukrainian ambassador to Australia, tweeted a screenshot of the Russian flag in the background while Rakhimova was serving on Court 13. Myroshnychenko wrote: “I strongly condemn the public display of the Russian flag during the game of the Ukrainian tennis player Kateryna Baindl at the Australian Open today. I call on Tennis Australia to immediately enforce its 'neutral flag' policy.”
Doug Trappett, a former Australian ambassador for Ukraine, added: “Embarrassing Australian Open - and it’s only day one. You could have banned Russian players and positioned yourself to give a robust response to such predictable incidents but you chose spinelessness. How painful for Ukrainians."
Others on social media described the flying of the Russian flag as 'disgusting' and 'disgraceful'. A spectator was also seen displaying a Russian flag during Daniil Medvedev's match on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.
Last week Myroshnychenko called on Tennis Australia to ban players from Russia and Belarus entirely, just as Wimbledon did last year. Wimbledon's decision was widely condemned at the time and led to the ATP and WTA tours stripping the grand slam of rankings points.
On Tuesday, Tennis Australia announced that Russian and Belarusian flags have been banned entirely at Melbourne Park. "Our initial policy was that fans could bring them in but could not use them to cause disruption," Tennis Australia said in a statement.
"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."
Acting Victoria Premier Jacinta Allan welcomed Tennis Australia’s decision, saying “this is the right move. This is a good move."
Tennis Australia earlier told Wide World of Sports: “Players from Russia and Belarus are only able to compete in international tennis events as individuals – and without flags or country recognition – which will be the case for Australian Open 2023. Tennis Australia stands united with the international governing bodies of tennis - the grand slams, the ATP and WTA Tours and the ITF - in its condemnation of Russia’s actions and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine."
The move affects the likes of Russian players Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, as well as Belarusian stars Aryna Sabalenka and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.
Daniil Medvedev set to face John Millman at Australian Open
Meanwhile, Medvedev will face Australia's John Millman in the second round after breating American Marcos Giron 6-0 6-1 6-2. Millman twice trailed Marc-Andrea Huesler by a set, but fought back to win 6-7 (8-10) 7-5 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 6-3 win.
The Aussie's reward for making the second round is a showdown with World No.8 Medvedev. "They're the matches you want to play," Millman said. "He's one of the few guys that I've actually never played before. I love watching him play.
"It's a daunting prospect because you know that when you play against him, you have to work for every point. He gives you no points. He covers the court extremely well. He extends the rallies and that's how I'm winning my rallies.
"So it's going to be a really tough battle but I've had a couple of big matches before against some of these big players and generally speaking, I like to test myself against them."
Medvedev only needed an hour and 36 minutes to sweep past Giron. The Russian star said he was was excited to take on Millman for the first time.
"It's true that in five, six years that I'm on the tour we (Millman and I) never played," Medvedev said. "He's a great player, especially here in Australia.
"I remember he almost beat Roger (Federer) in the US Open when Roger was up the top. He's capable of playing some great tennis so I'm going to have to play my best also and hopefully people are going to see a great match."
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