Andrey Rublev, one of Russia’s hopefuls at the ongoing Australian Open, complained to the chair umpire about taunts from spectators bearing a Ukrainian flag during his second-round win against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori on Thursday.
At the start of the second set, Rublev was targeted by a section of the crowd who draped the Ukrainian flag over advertisement hoardings at the Kia Arena – which came days after Australian Open officials banned the display of the Russian flag throughout the course of the tournament.
The 25-year-old Rublev, who was suspended from playing at Wimbledon last year due to his nationality, informed the official that he did not object to the presence of the flag itself but rather the torrent of insults he claimed were being directed at him.
“It was not about the flag,” he said afterwards. “I said straightaway to the referee, it’s not about the flag, they can put any flag they want, I understand completely the situation.
“It was more that they started to tell me bad words and bad things. I said to the referee: ‘It’s not about the flag, but please can you tell them at least to not say bad words when I’m on the changeover.’”
This wasn’t Rublev’s only quarrel with the umpire during the match as he became involved in a tense confrontation with the official in the third set after he was accused of uttering obscenities in his native tongue.
Rublev, who was penalized for the outburst, reacted furiously and said the umpire couldn’t possibly have understood what he had said.
“Are you from Russia? Do you speak Russian?” Rublev asked, denying that he had used coarse language.
“You have to take this back. There are so many similar words.”
The umpire did not back down, prompting another riposte from the Russian.
“So now you are telling me this, I’m understanding ‘f**k you.’ It’s exactly the same,” Rublev responded.
“So why you don’t give me warning now when I say f**k you? That’s what I hear.”
Rublev ultimately won the match in four sets (6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3) to qualify for the third round of the first Grand Slam event of the new year.
He will next play the UK’s Dan Evans on Saturday.
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