Tennis Australia announced on Tuesday that fans will no longer be allowed to bring the Russian or the Belarusian flag to the site of the Australian Open.
The decision comes after Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia “strongly condemn[ed]” the Russian flag being displayed in the stands at the grand slam.
Tennis Australia wrote in its statement: “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.”
The flag was seen during the first-round match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova in Melbourne.
In light of the war in Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian tennis players have been permitted to play at the Australian Open but must do so “without flags or country recognition.”
“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,” Vasyl Myroshnychenko wrote on Twitter on Monday, alongside a photo showing the flag on display.
“I call on Tennis Australia to immediately enforce its ‘neutral flag’ policy.”
It’s unclear who was responsible for displaying the flag during the match.
An agency photo also shows the Russian flag on display in the stands during the first-round match between Daniil Medvedev and USA’s Marcos Giron.
Baindl went on to win the match 7-5 6-7(10-8) 6-1 and will face American Caty McNally in the second round.
Tennis’ response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a point of controversy over the past year.
Last year, Wimbledon organizers banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the tournament in the face of “unjustified and unprecedented military aggression,” according to a statement released in April.
The ATP and WTA Tours, the governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis, later responded by stripping Wimbledon of ranking points in the face of what they deemed “discrimination” towards Russian and Belarusian players.
After her first-round victory at the Australian Open, Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk said she will not shake hands with rivals from Russia and Belarus, who she feels have not done enough to speak out against the invasion.