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Australian Open bans Russian, Belarusian flags after incident

Jun 8, 2021; Paris, France; Detailed view of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova's (RUS) fingernails on her racket during her match against Elena Rybakina (KAZ) on day 10 of the French Open at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Tennis Australia, which organizes the Australian Open, banned Russian and Belarusian flags from the grounds at Melbourne Park after what it described as an “incident” during a match featuring a Ukrainian player Monday.

Amid Russia’s war against Ukraine, players from Russia and its ally Belarus are being allowed to play in the first Grand Slam event of the season but “without flags or country recognition.” No flags were banned from the stands, however, until Tuesday (Australia time).

Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl defeated Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-1. During the match, spectators waved a Russian flag and hung it on a fence in the stands.

“Flags from Russia and Belarus are banned on-site at the Australian Open,” Tennis Australia said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our initial policy was 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 is effective immediately. We will continue to work with the players and our fans to ensure the best possible environment to enjoy the tennis.”

The decision came after Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, condemned the flag’s appearance at the tournament.

“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,” Myroshnychenko tweeted. “I call on Tennis Australia to immediately enforce its ‘neutral flag’ policy.”

–Field Level Media