On Tuesday, Karen Khachanov came to the defense after his support for the disputed Armenian enclave at the Australian Open sparked a strong complaint from Azerbaijani tennis officials.
The Russian, who has Armenian roots, after winning the fourth round in Melbourne Park, wrote a message on the camera lens, which said: “Keep believing until the very end. Artsakh, hold on!”
In the previous round, the semi-finalist wrote: “Artsakh remains strong.”
They were referring to the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan over which Baku and Yerevan fought two wars.
“I have Armenian roots. From my father’s side, from my grandfather’s side, even from my mother’s side. I’m half Armenian,” he said after reaching the semi-finals with the Armenian flag that could be seen at the Rod Laver Arena.
“Honestly, I don’t want to go into it, I just wanted to show strength and support for my people. That’s all”.
In a letter posted online, the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation said it protested against the organizers of the Australian Open and the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
He demanded to be “punished” with “severe measures”.
“Writing sincere wishes on the camera lens is a kind of tradition in tennis, but Khachanov abused this, using it in his dirty plans,” he added.
Khachanov said he was unaware of the letter and was ordered “for the time being” to stop his post-match messages.