BBC News Sydney bureau
After a court dispute, the Russian and Belarusian flags have been banned from tennis’ Australian Open tournament.
Spectators were initially allowed to bring flags into Melbourne Park provided the flags did not cause “disturbance”.
The decision was reversed on Tuesday after fans hoisted the Russian flag during a match between Ukraine’s Katerina Bindle and Russia’s Kamila Rakimova.
In a statement, Tennis Australia said: “We will work with players and spectators to create the best possible environment for enjoying tennis. A Ukrainian fan claims he called police and security guards during Monday’s first-round match because a Russian fan “mocked” Baindl.
“The dispute is still ongoing,” one fan told local newspaper The Age. “There was a sense of dread because the pitch was so narrow and the players were so close to each other.”
However, one of the Russian men involved told Eiji that his group was simply rooting for his compatriots.
“People may find it offensive, but we were your typical fans. There was no mockery or disrespect.”
Ukrainian envoys in Australia and New Zealand had previously urged Tennis Australia to take action. Since the invasion of Ukraine began last February, Russian and Belarusian players have been prevented from competing under their country’s flag in various sports, including tennis.
Players from both countries will compete under a white flag of neutrality at the Australian Open, but will not be able to compete at Wimbledon in 2022.
The Tennis Professionals Association and the Women’s Tennis Association later fined the organizers and stripped them of tournament ranking points.The WTA said it should maintain a fair chance for players to compete as individuals.
Wimbledon has banned Russian and Belarusian players from participating. Tennis Australia made the right decision on Tuesday, according to the Victorian government.
“Russian aggression in Ukraine is abhorrent,” said incumbent Prime Minister Jancinta Alan. “This is a violation of international human rights obligations. Belarus enabled and encouraged it.
“(This) sends a very strong message that human rights are essential, whether in athletics or in our communities at large.”
The ban comes after Ukrainian tennis star Marta Kostyuk said she would not shake hands with her Russian and Belarusian opponents.