Tennis

Flag-bearing Ukranian fans abuse Russian tennis star at Australian Open

Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev made a complaint to the chair umpire during his match on Thursday after he was abused by fans bearing an Ukraine flag.

Just two days after Australian Open organisers banned patrons from bringing Russian and Belarusian flags into Melbourne Park, a Ukraine flag dangled over the advertising board next to Rublev’s chair during his match against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori on Kia Arena.

Andrey Rublev approached the chair umpire over crowd behaviour.Credit:Getty

Rublev approached the chair umpire about the spectators who brought the flag into the venue, but insisted he had no issue with the flag.

Instead Rublev had taken exception to repeated comments aimed at him by those particular spectators.

A Tennis Australia spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that three patrons were later issued with a warning for disruptive behaviour and left shortly afterwards.

“I said straightaway to the referee, it’s not about the flag,” Rublev told Associated Press.

“They can put any flag they want, I understand completely the situation. It was more that they started to tell me bad words and bad things.

“I said to the referee: ‘It’s not about the flag, but please can you tell them at least to not say bad words when I’m on the changeover’.”

Rublev has been a voice for peace among Russian athletes. A month after Russia invaded the Ukraine, he etched a sign on to the lens of a camera following a match at Indian Wells which read “No war please”.

Then again in November during the ATP finals in Turin, Rublev wrote another message following a win against countryman Daniil Medvedev.

“Peace, Peace, Peace, All We Need,” Rublev wrote in what was believed to be another reference to his home country’s invasion of Ukraine.

It was an emotion-charged match for Rublev, who lost his cool with the umpire later in the match.

The No.5 seed in the tournament was handed an audible obscenity penalty after surrendering a break point in the third set.

The chair umpire believed Rublev swore in Russian, a claim the 24-year-old strongly refuted.

“Are you from Russia? Do you speak Russian?” Rublev asked after denying he’d sworn.

“You have to take this back. There are so many similar words.“

The umpire held his ground and declared he understood the meaning of Rublev’s outburst.

“So now you are telling me this, I’m understanding ‘f— you’ – It’s exactly the same,” Rublev responded. “So why you don’t give me warning now when I say f— you? That’s what I hear.”

Rublev managed to hold his nerve and win the match in four sets.

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