A Ukrainian woman had her national flag cut in two by French Open staff because it was ‘too big’, ahead of Tuesday’s highly-charged quarterfinal clash between Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Anna, who declined to give her family name, waited quietly as the flag was taken away by a Roland Garros employee at the entrance gate and was returned to her in two pieces.
“Here at the FFT (French tennis federation) we have nothing against the Ukrainian flag. On the contrary, we would do the same with any other flag,” the employee told Anna.
“I came here to support Elina Svitolina. It’s a flag that I’ve taken everywhere, to stadiums, notably at Euro 2016,” Anna, who lives in France, told Reuters.
“Now I have two flags,” she added with a smile.
The flag was more than one metre in length - the maximum size allowed at Roland Garros.
Tension is expected to be high as Svitolina faces Sabalenka in front of a notoriously fickle Roland Garros crowd in the most electrifying sporting clash since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Ukraine’s Svitolina has been refusing to shake hands with players from Russia or Belarus, which has been a key staging ground for what Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’. Belarusian Sabalenka has been in the eye of the storm for snubbing the media after being grilled about the war.
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