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Russian, Belarusian Flags Banned from 2023 Australian Open After Courtside 'Incident'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 17, 2023

MELBOURNE, VIC - JANUARY 16: New Balls are prepared for a match during Round 1 of the 2023 Australian Open on January 16 2023, at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There will be no more Russian or Belarusian flags on display at the Australian Open following an "incident" during the opening-round match between Ukraine's Kateryna Baindl and Russia's Kamilla Rakhimova.

Jake Michaels of ESPN noted there was a Russian flag hanging courtside during the match, which caused Ukraine's ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, to call for a ban on such displays:

Vasyl Myroshnychenko @AmbVasyl

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. <a href="https://twitter.com/TennisAustralia?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TennisAustralia</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AustralianOpen</a> <a href="https://t.co/zw8pLN4FIF">pic.twitter.com/zw8pLN4FIF</a>

Tennis Australia issued the ban and released a statement explaining its position:

"Flags from Russia and Belarus are banned onsite at the Australian Open. 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."

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Wimbledon organizers banned players from both Russia and Belarus from competing in the tournament.

While players can compete in this year's Australian Open, they cannot do so under their country's name or flag. Now fans will not be able to display the flags of those nations either.

As for the match, Baindl won 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-1.

It was back-and-forth throughout the first two sets, but she seized control in the third and final one with timely breaks and continued excellence with her serve. According to the tournament's official website, Baindl enjoyed a five-to-one advantage in aces and won 74 percent of her first-service points.

By comparison, Rakhimova won 60 percent of her first-service points.

Next up for Baindl is a second-round matchup against Catherine McNally of the United States.