flags
Fans will only be allowed to wave or display flags of the players competing at the Australian Open. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Craig Tiley flags Australian Open security warning

Murray Wenzel January 6, 2024

Australian Open crowds have been put on notice by tournament director Craig Tiley, who says only the flags of the players competing will be permitted to fly at the tennis major.

Tiley on Saturday backed his security team to handle “the long list of potential things that could happen” at the season-opening grand slam, that begins next Sunday.

Tight security was implemented at Melbourne Park at last year’s tournament, where Russian and Belarusian flags were prohibited at the venue because of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian Eagle banner and items of clothing with the Z symbol were also banned.

Some spectators were seen flouting Tennis Australia’s ban on those national flags during the opening week of the tournament while eventual champion Novak Djokovic’s father was filmed interacting with Vladimir Putin fans.

Srdjan Djokovic then stayed away from his son’s semi-final and final matches so as not to be a distraction on the march to a 10th Open title.

At the time Tiley said he believed Srdjan Djokovic didn’t realise he was posing with people carrying Russian flags while the player had urged his fans to be respectful during the decider against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka, from Belarus, competed under a white flag and didn’t have her country engraved on the winner’s trophy alongside her name, as is customary.

Those flags remain banned from the venue at the 2024 event, Tiley on Saturday moving to reinforce the measures. 

“The players competing in the event, those flags are allowed to be displayed,” he said.

“If a player from your nation is not competing, then those flags are not allowed to be displayed.

“That (banning Russian and Belarusian flags) was a decision made by the sports ministers of over 30 nations back then, on how the international players from Russia and Belarus would be competing internationally.”

The tournament is the biggest sporting spectacle in the world held in January and the biggest annual sporting event in the southern hemisphere. 

“We go through the long list of potential things that could happen. It’s scenario planning and we’ve trained for it.

“I have an incredible amount of confidence on how our security teams will manage anything.” 

The first round will begin a day earlier than normal, a Sunday session allowing three days to complete the first round at a tournament now carrying $86.5 million in prize money. 

That’s up 13 per cent on last year, with first-round losers set to earn $120,000 and singles winners $3.15 million, some $175,000 more than what Djokovic and Sabalenka brought home 12 months ago.

Meanwhile 2020 Open finalist Dominic Thiem, also a US Open winner in that year,  has been promoted from qualifying to the main draw after the withdrawal of American Reilly Opelka.

Austrian Thiem, now ranked No.98 in the world, showed glimpses of his best in a 7-5 6-1 loss to Rafael Nadal in Brisbane’s first round.