Four Australian Open spectators were detained by police after waving banned Russian flags and threatening security at Melbourne Park on Wednesday evening.
During Novak Djokovic’s quarter-final victory over Russia’s Andrey Rublev at Rod Laver Arena, a patron was spotted taking off their shirt to reveal the pro-war “Z” symbol associated with support of the invasion of Ukraine.
Djokovic inadvertently signed a shirt for the spectator after the straight sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory.
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After the match, a group of spectators were seen waving flags and chanting “Serbia, Russia” near the stadium. At least one man was holding a flag with the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin on it.
Tennis Australia confirmed four spectators had been detained by police following the incident.
“Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards,” an Australian Open statement read.
“Victoria Police intervened and are continuing to question them. The comfort and safety of everyone is our priority and we work closely with security and authorities.”
A Victoria Police statement confirmed: “Police spoke to four men after a Russian flag was produced on the steps at the tennis about 10.20pm on Wednesday 25 January. All four men were evicted.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from taking part in several global sporting events, including Wimbledon.
Russian and Belarusian players have been permitted to compete in this year’s Australian Open as independent neutrals, forbidden from representing their countries.
Last week, the Australian Open banned spectators from carrying Russian flags, donning Putin’s Z symbol or chanting pro-Russian songs.
Russia’s embassy condemned at Tennis Australia’s flag ban, calling it “another example of unacceptable politicisation of sports”.
During Wednesday evening’s victory, Djokovic complained to the chair umpire about vocal Russian supporters at Rod Laver Arena.
“If somebody steps over the line and starts making comments that are not related to support of the other player, he just wants to provoke and insult, then stepping over the line is something that I react to,” Djokovic said.
“Maybe not first time, second time, but after that yes. Then I ask the chair umpire to react.
“After that, I heard him, but he was supporting Rublev. He was not making any bad comments till the end of the match, so I didn‘t have any complaints about that further on.”
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