Australian Open

Karen Khachanov Sparks Political Debate After Artsakh Support at Australian Open

Russia’s Karen Khachanov faced backlash from the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation for writing pro-Armenian messages after matches at the 2023 Australian Open.

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Russia's Karen Khachanov has been playing without a flag next to his name at the 2023 Australian Open.

But that hasn’t meant the No. 20 ranked player hasn’t been in the crosshairs of political turmoil while playing in Melbourne.

Khachanov, whose father and mother are Armenian dissent, wrote, “Keep believing all the way until the end!! Artsakh stay strong!!!” on the television camera lens after his fourth round win over China’s Yoshihito Nishioka on Saturday.

His pro-Armenian message sparked a strongly worded complaint from the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation.

In the letter, Azerbaijan tennis officials demanded Khachanov be “punished” with “harsh measures” for his “heartfelt words.”

Khachanov has used his platform to speak out against Azerbaijan amid the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – an ethnic and territorial war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In support of Khachanov and what is currently being described as the Artsakh blockade, the Melbourne Armenian community have been bringing its nation’s flags to cheer on their countryman during his Australian Open campaign. 

After Khachanov’s quarterfinal win over American Sebastian Korda, he took to the television camera lens, writing, “Artsakh stay strong!!!”

When asked if he has heard any complaints about his written messages specifically from the Azerbaijan tennis federation, he said he has not.

“I say many times. I have Armenian roots. From my father's side, from my grandfather's side, even from my mom's side. I'm half Armenian,” Khachanov said after his latest match. “To be honest, I don't want to go deeper than that, and I just wanted to show strength and support to my people.”

Khachanov visited Armenia back in November 2021, where he went to “beautiful and sacred places” Etchmiadzin, Zvartnots, Sevanavank, Haghartsin, Haghpat, Akhtala, Noravank and Tatev. He said the trip was a “very interesting and intense journey.”

Khachanov is set to face Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday for a spot in the Australian Open final.

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