First player qualified this Tuesday for the last four of the Australian Open, Karen Khachanov does not have many supporters in Azerbaijan. Because the scorer of Sebastian Korda (forced to forfeit during the third set), who plays without a Russian flag next to his name and who refuses to mention the sanctions which hit him as a Russian on the circuit, shows his support for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. And this as long as it is not forbidden. “Keep believing until the end!” Artsakh, stay strong! “Wrote Karen Khachanov (26) on the lenses of the cameras filming the exit from the court in Melbourne, after his recent successes against Frances Tiafoe and Yoshihito Nishioka.
During its quarter-final against Sebastian Korda, flags of this region mainly populated by Armenians, which Azerbaijan is trying to recover by force, were deployed in the stands of the Rod Laver Arena. “I have Armenian roots, on my father’s side, my grandfather’s side, but also on my mother’s side, explains the person concerned. I am half Armenian. I wanted to show my support for my people, to give them strength, that’s all. I don’t want to go any further. »
The ITF has yet to take a position
But it is already too far for the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation, which has had little taste for its position. The latter protested to the International Federation (ITF) by qualifying Khachanov’s messages as “unacceptable attacks”. The Azerbaijani authority calls for “more severe measures to punish the player in order to avoid such incidents in the future”. This Tuesday, the player announced, a little embarrassed, that he had had no feedback “so far”. And the ITF did not respond to media inquiries on the subject. At the entrance to Melbourne Park, signs warn the public that Russian flags are prohibited within the complex, while they were authorized at the start of the tournament, “provided they do not cause a problem”.
White-blue-red banners were unfurled in the stands, which sparked the ire of Ukraine, an official reaction from its ambassador to Australia and ultimately their banishment from the venue. Another Russian player competing in Melbourne, Andrey Rublev, was provoked by spectators waving a Ukrainian flag under his nose during his second round match against Emil Ruusuvuori. “The flag, OK no problem. But they insult me,” he complained to the referee.
Wimbledon still dotted for the Russians?
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to play most tournaments, provided their nationality is not mentioned anywhere. Only the British Federation, under pressure from the government, had refused the Russians and Belarusians last year, including at Wimbledon, which had suddenly deprived them of ATP and WTA points.
What about the Major on grass this season, while Khachanov waits, resigned: “I have no message to convey to the organizers. We’ll do what they decide. What can I do about it anyway? My words won’t change anything, so I might as well shut up.” The Azerbaijani federation would like him to do the same regarding the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.