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Australian Open bans Russia and Belarus flags on site

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The flags of Russia and Belarus were banned from the Australian Open venue on Tuesday after more than one were ushered into the stands by spectators on the first day of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

Normally the flags can be displayed at games at Melbourne Park. But Tennis Australia has reversed that policy for the two countries involved in the invasion of Ukraine which began nearly a year ago.

“Our initial policy was that fans could bring (flags) but could not use them to cause disruption,” Tennis Australia said in a statement on Tuesday. “Yesterday we had an incident where a flag was placed near the pitch. We will continue to work with players and our fans to ensure this is the best possible environment to enjoy tennis.

A Russian flag was displayed in Ukrainian player Kateryna Baindl’s 7-5, 6-7(8), 6-1 victory over Russian player Kamilla Rakhimova on Court 14 in the first round on Monday.

Another was given to Russian player Daniil Medvedev to autograph after his 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 win over Marcos Giron at Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.

Asked about the ban on the new flag, Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka said after her first-round victory on Tuesday that she would prefer politics and sport to remain separate, but understands Tennis Australia’s decision.

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