The Australian Open has announced a ban on Russian and Belarusian flags after an incident on the first day of the tournament.
Traditionally, country flags are allowed to be displayed during all of the matches at the Australian Open.
Spectators were initially permitted to bring the flags into Melbourne Park on the condition they did not cause “disruption”.
However, Tennis Australia altered that policy for Russia and Belarus after those countries invaded Ukraine last year.
Fans displayed a Russian flag during a match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russian Kamilla Rakhimova.
In addition, Russian star Daniil Medvedev was offered a Russian flag to autograph following his 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 win over Marcos Giron on Monday evening.
“Our initial policy was that fans could bring [flags] in but could not use them to cause disruption,” Tennis Australia said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Yesterday we had an incident where a flag was placed courtside. We will continue to work with the players and our fans to ensure that this is the best possible environment to enjoy the tennis.”
Ukrainian fans say they called police and security to the first-round match on Monday, claiming Russian supporters were “taunting” Baindl.
“This is profoundly unsafe, the war is ongoing,” one fan told local newspaper The Age. “It’s a small court, the guys were extremely close to the players, so there was an element of what I felt was intimidation.”
Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka was asked about the new flag policy following his first round match. Sabalenka stated that she wished that sports and politics would be separate matters, but understood why the decision was made.
“I mean, if everyone feels better this way, then it’s OK,” Sabalenka said. “I have zero control on it. What can I say? They did it. OK. No flags? No flags.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand had earlier called on Tennis Australia to take action.