Russian tennis player accused of writing 'hateful' message on Australian Open camera lens
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Karen Khachanov has landed himself in hot water with Azerbaijan tennis officials who have accused the Russian of writing a 'hateful' message on a camera lens at the Australian Open.
In recent years, it has become tradition for tennis' biggest stars to scribble on the cameras after their matches.
Some simply write their signatures out while others use the canvas to send messages to the audience about various societal and world issues.
Khachanov's one, though, has not gone down well.
“Keep believing all the way until the end!! Artsakh stay strong!!!” - Tennis star, Karen Khachanov, once again writes a message in solidarity with Artsakh at the @AustralianOpen 🙌— Armenian Assembly (@ARAMAC_DC) January 22, 2023
Take action 🔗 https://t.co/7d0goGOUZX pic.twitter.com/LFoWaHQVef
After a recent clash at the Australian Open, made his way to the television camera lens and wrote the words: “Keep believing until the very end. Artsakh, hold on!”
In an earlier round, the he sent a similar message, saying: “Artsakh stay strong.”
What the 26-year-old is referring to is the region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, an Armenian-populated breakaway state whose geopolitical situation is contested.
The conflict in the area has resulted in the road between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh being blocked off for well over a month now.
While Russia’s Karen Khachanov plays without a flag by his name at #AusOpen, there are other flags in the stands for him: those of Artsakh (aka Nagorno-Karabakh), the embattled region which the ethnically Armenian Khachanov has urged support for during the tournament. https://t.co/57RKyFghoW pic.twitter.com/4aoZ416D6e— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 24, 2023
“I have Armenian roots. From my father’s side, from my grandfather’s side, even from my mum’s side. I’m half-Armenian,” Khachanov said after reaching the semi-finals.
“To be honest, I don’t want to go deeper than that and I just wanted to show strength and support to my people. That’s it.”
His comments, while draped in an Armenian flag, didn't sit well with the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation who issued a letter of demand calling for Khachanov to be “punished” with “harsh measures”.
After Khachanov's first camera message about Artsakh, Azerbaijan's tennis federation sent a complaint about Khachanov to the International Tennis Federation, demanding he be "punished" with "harsh measures" for his "heartfelt words." pic.twitter.com/Lo88ULSmQ2— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 24, 2023
“The Azerbaijan Tennis Federation (ATF) has sent a letter of protest to the International Tennis Federation regarding the provocation against Azerbaijan at the Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam,” the federations said in the letter.
“Karen Khachanov, a Russian athlete of Armenian origin, who reached the 1/16 finals in the men’s competition, attracted attention with his hateful act. Thus, after claiming 3:1 victory over his American rival Frances Tiafoe, Khachanov wrote ‘Artsakh stay strong’ on the camera as his heartfelt words.
“The Azerbaijan Tennis Federation letter presented facts and legal documents regarding the provocation against Azerbaijan. The ATF condemned this act and demanded the tennis player be punished and urged the International Tennis Federation to take harsh measures for prevention of such incidents in the future.”
It remains to be seen whether Khachanov will be punished for the message.