Russian fans attending Novak Djokovic’s demolition of Andrey Rublev at the Australian Open have been detained by police at Melbourne Park after allegedly threatening security.
A fan brandishing a flag bearing Russian president Vladimir Putin’s image is among four people police are interviewing following the incident outside Rod Laver Arena.
The group of fans gathered on the stairs between two of Australia’s iconic tennis stadiums, Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas, to make a provocative political statement.
Supporters have flouted policies banning Russian and Belarusian flags from the grounds of Melbourne Park since the tournament began on January 16.
But the incident on Wednesday night, in which the group of four men brandished flags with Russian insignia with one bearing the image of Putin, is the most serious breach yet.
“Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards,” a Tennis Australia spokesperson said.
“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.”
Tennis Australia moved to ban patrons from bringing Russian or Belarusian flags or insignia into Melbourne Park after they caused offence in the initial stages of the grand slam.
“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,” Tennis Australia said last week.
“We will continue to work with the players and our fans to ensure the best possible environment to enjoy the tennis.”
The sport has cracked down on recognising the two nations following the invasion of Ukraine in February, with players from the two countries banned from some leading events.
Wimbledon issued a blanket ban of Russian and Belarusian players, while the nations are prevented from competing in team competitions including the recent United Cup in Australia.
Other global sports have gone further by banning Belarusian and Russian athletes from all competitions.
There was disquiet in some circles of Australian politics when players from the two nations were allowed entry to compete throughout regular tournaments across the nation this month.
Rublev and Australian Open semi-finalists Karen Khachanov of Russia and Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus are competing without recognition of their nation.
Sabalenka and Azarenka are striving to become the first women from their country to compete against each other in what would be an all-Belarusian grand slam final.
Khachanov, who will play Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in a semi-final on Friday night, drew the ire of Azerbaijan officials for statements related to a contested Armenian conclave.
The Russian, who derailed Nick Kyrgios’s bid for the US Open title last September, wrote the messages on a television camera lens as he was leaving the court following a fourth round win.
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