Ugly scenes unfolded during the 2022 Cincinnati Open qualifiers when Anna Kalinskaya and Anastasia Potapova were involved in an all-Russian clash in the final round of the qualifiers. While Kalinskaya secured a 7-5, 6-1 win over her compatriot to enter the main-draw at the WTA-1000 event, the result and the game were not the things that were discussed later.
During the match, a spectator, later identified as Lola, was seen draped in the Ukrainian flag and wearing a Vinok, a Ukrainian floral wreath crown. The incident was brought to light by journalist Ben Rothenberg who reported that the spectator was not causing any disturbance to the proceedings of the match and is a local resident near the ongoing tournament in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Open issues a statement regarding the entire incident
While Lola was watching the action live, one of Potapova and Kalinskaya complained to the chair umpire about the presence of the fan showing complete support to Ukraine during the clash of two Russian players and given the ongoing Ukraine-Russia War, things are at an all-time high with regards to sensitivity on the subject.
The umpire then told Lola, “‘Not nice’…to be sitting with the flag,” to which she promptly replied, “It was not nice to invade a country.” Upon hearing her reply, the security marshal alerted the fan to leave the stands or police will be called in to escort her out of the stadium. While many spectators came to her defence, the security official did not hold back.
Lola was considerate and walked out of the stand along with one of her Ukrainian friends and was spotted in the Lindner Family Tennis Center roaming around before they were approached by the head of the security at the venue who explained that given the Ukrainian flag Lola was carrying violated the policy of flags being 18X18 inches, she was asked to leave the stands. Lola was later asked to leave the venue and taken to the parking lot and asked to keep the flag in her car and was then welcomed to return to the stands once again.
“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. 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,” said the Cincinnati Open‘s spokesperson.
The incident has since then highlighted once again the disparity in following the rules as many tennis fans including journalist Rothenberg have reported that flags bigger than the said size have been displayed at the tournament size and the flag size rule is just a scapegoat that the tournament officials used to cover up the subject.