MELBOURNE — Russian-Armenian tennis star Karen Khachanov has angered Azerbaijan following his celebrations during his run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The 18th seed defeated Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. 6-0, 6-0, 7-6 on John Cain Arena on the weekend to reach the last eight at the year’s first Grand Slam.
Afterwards, the 26-year-old wrote a message on the television camera lens that said, “Keep believing until the very end. Artsakh, hold on!” – a reference to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. He was expressing his support to the people of Artsakh who are suffering under a month long blockade by Azerbaijan.
Earlier, after beating American Frances Tiafoe in the previous round, he wrote on the lens “Artsakh stay strong”.
The Azerbaijan Tennis Federation (FTA) has protested to both Australian Open organizers and International Tennis Federation (ITF) officials.
“Writing heartfelt wishes on the camera lens is a kind of tradition in tennis, but Khachanov abused this, using it in his dirty plans,” the FTA said in a statement.
“The Azerbaijan Tennis Federation, taking into account the inadmissibility of such a provocation, sent a letter of protest to the International Tennis Federation.
“The letter reflects the facts of provocation directed against our country and presents legal documents.
“The FTA condemns such incidents, demanding that the ITF punish Khachanov and take drastic measures so that similar situations do not recur.
“We hope this issue will find its objective solution soon.”
Khachanov has previously spoken of his support for Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Despite the fact that I was born in Russia, I always say that I have Armenian roots,” he said in an interview two years at the start of the latest conflict with Azerbaijan.
“It hurts to the depths of my soul to look at what is happening in the country, which I love very much.
“Innocent people and even children are dying.”
Khachanov is next due to play 29th seed Sebastian Korda, of the United States, at the Australian Open tomorrow.