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Major controversy hits Australian Open 2023 after fans display pro-Russia symbols during Novak Djokovic's QF match against Andrey Rublev

Fans display pro-Russian symbols in Novak Djokovic
Fans display pro-Russian symbols in Novak Djokovic's match against Andrey Rublev

A major controversy erupted at the 2023 Australian Open during Novak Djokovic's quarterfinal match against Andrey Rublev on Wednesday, January 25, when fans displayed pro-Russia symbols.

Nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic advanced to the semifinals after comfortably defeating fifth seed Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.

However, a number of fans unveiled flags and other symbols in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine during the match and were later questioned by Victoria police.

A spectator removed a t-shirt in support of Djokovic to reveal another with the 'Z' symbol underneath. The symbol is viewed as a vehemently pro-war representation of President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

After the match, a group of fans stood on the Rod Laver Arena stairs and held a Russian flag with Putin's face. They were also heard chanting in support of Russia.

👀 And just like that … we believe this is the 1st display of the Z symbol of Russia’s war on Ukraine at the international tennis tournament. 🤔 Looks like he was hiding it under the white t-shirt huh? https://t.co/iG6Z0wtdkq

Russian and Belarusian players have been competing under neutral flags at the 2023 Australian Open over the invasion of Ukraine. Fans are also not allowed to bring Russian flags and other pro-war symbols to the stadiums.

Just took a walk around Melbourne Park after filing and a group of people were standing on the Rod Laver Arena steps, holding up a flag with Vladimir Putin’s face and chanting in support of Russia. https://t.co/2p0LfkyVC3

Tennis fans and players around the world strongly condemned these actions. Former Ukrainian tennis player Alex Dolgopolov believes fans wearing pro-Russia t-shirts should be banned for life, at least from all Australian events.

"This guy will get banned for life, at least for all Australian events, right @AustralianOpen," he wrote.
This guy will get banned for life, at least for all Australian events, right? @AustralianOpen twitter.com/ukrtennis_eng/…

Another user stated that such acts require immediate investigation so that "terrorists" do not appear near a tennis court anywhere in the world.

"This needs urgent investigation and ensuring that terrorist doesn't show up anywhere close tennis ANYWHERE in the world @AustralianOpen, @atptour, @TennisAustralia," the user wrote.
@TheDolgo @AustralianOpen This needs urgent investigation and ensuring that terrorist doesn't show up anywhere close tennis ANYWHERE in the world @AustralianOpen @atptour @TennisAustralia

Another account believed that Wimbledon's ban on Russian players was accurate and that all Russian players should be banned from participating in any tournament, and wrote:

"This is terrible for @AustralianOpen and @Wimbledon was ban on Russian/Belarusian players that's right. l think all of Russian players must ban all of tournament @atptour, @WTA."
This is terrible for @AustralianOpen and @Wimbledon was ban on Russian/Belarusian players that's right. l think all of russian players must ban all of tournament @atptour @WTA twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…

Here are a few more reactions from tennis fans:

Another example how sports IS about politics (and showing full support to aggressor country head) twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…
Disgusting 🤢🤮 that’s the sort of fans 💀 attracts 💩💩💩 twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…
This should be a lifetime ban twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…
Wow. Spectators wearing #WhereIsPengShuai were driven off from the site last year but they not even slightly bothered to take action against a banned flag and that too with a war criminal’s face stamped on it into the site twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…
just had a history lesson yesterday and i realised a lot of people in serbia support putin and the war- like they’re are probably nole fans… twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…
🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡 Clowns & Rashist Imperialists in Melbourne Park, Rod Laver Arena. twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…
This makes me sick! Outrageous, not commenting more as makes me too angry twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…
Tf? How is this even allowed @AustralianOpen ? twitter.com/tumcarayol/sta…
@TheDolgo @AustralianOpen Absolutely disgusting that anyone can support Putin. And Russian athletes should be banned from all ATP tournaments, like Wimbledon did. Instead ATP punished Wimbledon...
@TheDolgo @AustralianOpen This is disgusting. Needs to be banned.What are you going to do @CraigTiley?This brings shame onto the @AustralianOpenI think @AmbVasyl would agree.
@TheDolgo @AustralianOpen If you come into a country with this specific purpose of protesting and disrupting, you should be deported and banned from re-entry.
@TheDolgo @AustralianOpen Why would the AO, @WTA, @atptour, @ITFTennis and @BillieJeanKing care they are all supporting genocide. Let's see how they feel when their children are dieing? None of the players have spoken up against the Russians playing at AO which is a disgrace to humanity.
@TheDolgo @AustralianOpen Super fucking humiliating to see this for me as ukrainian on a tennis event. @TennisAustralia

Novak Djokovic's Australian Open quarterfinal match was interrupted by a heckler

Novak Djokovic pictured at the 2023 Australian Open - Day 10
Novak Djokovic pictured at the 2023 Australian Open - Day 10

Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev were forced to stop playing at one point during their quarterfinal match due to a particularly loud heckler, who was issued a warning by umpire James Keothavong.

Djokovic addressed the issue in his post-match press conference, saying that he can't judge the entire crowd based on one person.

"If it keeps happening, it keeps happening. There's not much I can do about it. Just a few individuals. I can't judge the whole crowd because of the few individuals. Absolutely not," he said.

The former World No. 1 added that while he was angry at first, he eventually realized that the person was rooting for Rublev and didn't make any negative comments until the end of the match, so he didn't complain about it anymore.

"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," Djokovic said.

The Serb, who had his left thigh strapped again, will face American Tommy Paul in the semifinals on Friday, January 27.

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Edited by Shubham Banerjee
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