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A large Ukrainian flag hung over fans during the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati on Sunday sparked outrage and the woman was asked to remove it from the event, officials said.
The incident began during a qualifying match between Russian players Anna Kalinskaya and Anastasia Potapova, in which multiple reports indicated that one of the players complained to WTA chairman umpire Morgan Lara about a fan in the stands.
The fan told Lara she wasn’t “pretty” and had to put the flag down, WKRC-TV reported.
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The woman, who only identified herself as Lola, is an American from Uzbekistan and said she and her companions “sat there in peace and quiet” before being asked to remove the flag.
“This is not Russia, this is the United States of America,” she told the station.
A video posted on Twitter showed Lara confronting the fan. Lola told WKRC-TV that the tennis players resumed playing for a few minutes before a security guard approached her.
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Western and Southern Open officials told Reuters in a statement that the flag was too big.
“Flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 are prohibited in the Western and Southern Open bag policy as stated on the tournament website. As such, the fan is asked to remove the flag from the court and is allowed to keep it after doing so,” a tournament spokesperson said. A visit should be offered.”
Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian and Belarusian players have taken heat at various sporting events around the world.
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Players from those countries were banned from Wimbledon earlier this summer. The US Open allows players from Russia and Belarus to compete under neutral flags only.