Supporters hold a Russian flag during Daniil Medvedev's first-round match at the Australian Open ©Getty Images

Russian Ambassador Alexei Pavlovsky has accused Australian Open tennis organisers of "sacrificing the spirit of fair play", after their decision to remove a Russian flag from courtside and enforce a blanket ban on all Russia and Belarus flags at the competition venue.

"It is indeed regrettable to see the tournament organisers give in to overt and rather arrogant political manipulation," the Ambassador said.

"On top of already discriminating against Russian tennis players with its neutral flag policy, Tennis Australia now went further by making sure they cannot be visually supported by their fans," his statement, reproduced in Russian state media said.

The Russian flag had been displayed during Ukrainian Kateryna Baindl’s first-round women’s singles victory over Russian Kamilla Rakhimova and also as Daniil Medvedev defeated American Marcos Giron.

It had been held by Russian born Eugene Routman who has lived in Australia since the age of five.

Routman wore a T-shirt showing a well-known picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin riding bare chested, but with devil horns superimposed beneath a slogan reading "Mother Russia".

He claimed the gesture mocked the Russian President.

Routman denied that he had taunted Baindl during the match.

A Russian flag had been displayed during the match between Rakhimova, right and her Ukrainian opponent Baindl ©Getty Images
A Russian flag had been displayed during the match between Rakhimova, right and her Ukrainian opponent Baindl ©Getty Images

"We got a few complaints, but we weren’t heckling, we were just cheering for the Russian player because she only had one supporter, her mum," Routman told the Melbourne Age and Herald.

Security staff were called to the courtside to remove the flag after complaints from Ukrainian fans.

Ukraine Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko called on the Australian Open to enforce a complete flag ban in the wake of the incident.

"Our initial policy was that fans could bring them in but could not use them to cause disruption," a statement from the tournament said.

"Yesterday we had an incident where a flag was placed courtside.

"The ban is effective immediately.

"We will continue to work with the players and our fans to ensure the best possible environment to enjoy the tennis."

The Australian Open statement was branded "ironic" by the Russian Ambassador.

Players from Russia and Belarus have been allowed to compete as "neutrals" at the tournament but no flags are displayed in draw notifications on official publications.

Even before the invasion of Ukraine, Russian athletes had been barred from using their national flag at the Olympics as part of a package of sanctions following doping irregularities.