The size of the Ukraine flag that a fan had draped around her during a match at the Cincinnati Open on Monday was the reason she was asked to remove it from the grounds, tournament officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
During a Qualifying match between Russian players Anna Kalinskaya and Anastasia Potapova on Sunday, one of the players reportedly complained to the WTA chair umpire Morgane Lara about the fan.
The fan was later interviewed by local TV station WKRC. She gave her name as Lola and said she was an American originally from Uzbekistan.
“We had our Ukrainian flag, not doing anything crazy, distracting players, but wrapped around, sitting there peacefully and quietly,” she said.
Lola said the umpire then came to speak to her. “The message I got was that it is agitating Russian players. I said, ‘I’m not putting it away.’ They kept playing for a minute or two. Then, they stopped the game again, and then the security guard came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to call the cops if you won’t leave.’
The tournament said that the flag’s size, rather than its origin, was the problem.
“Per the Western & Southern Open’s bag policy, as stated on the tournament’s website, flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 are prohibited,” a spokesperson for the tournament said in an email. “Therefore, the patron was asked to remove the flag from the grounds and after doing so was allowed to remain at the tournament. Any inquiries about the chair umpire should be directed to the WTA Tour.”
The WTA Tour did not respond to a request for comment. Ben Rothenberg, a senior editor at Racquet Magazine and a Veteran Reporter on the tennis circuit, said similar sized flags were regularly displayed at the tournament with no consequences.
“Anyone who has been to #CincyTennis will know that there have been similarly sized flags happily waved and displayed around the Stadia here for years, most often US and Serbian flags,” he wrote on Twitter.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February. In response, Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament this year. The US Open, which starts on 29 August, will allow players from those countries to compete and will host a tournament-long campaign to raise awareness and Humanitarian aid for Ukraine with a goal of raising $2m in relief, the United States Tennis Association said last week.