Australian Open: Khachanov defends support for Artsakh

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Karen Khachanov has defended his decision to publicly show support for the breakaway region of Artsakh, despite drawing the ire of the Azerbaijan Tennis Federation (ATF).

Khachanov – who was born in Russia but has an Armenian father – has written supportive messages on a camera twice during his run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

Azerbaijan's blockade of Artsakh, which began in December, is part of the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, with the area internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan despite historically being a part of Armenia.

Following Khachanov's show of support, the ATF wrote to the International Tennis Federation, calling the world number 20's messages a "hateful act".

The statement added: "The ATF condemned this act and demanded that the tennis player be punished and urged the International Tennis Federation to take harsh measures for prevention of such incidents in the future."

Speaking after his quarter-final win over Sebastian Korda, in which the American retired hurt with Khachanov leading by two sets and a break, the Russian defended his actions.

"I say many times. I have Armenian roots," he said. "From my father's side, from my grandfather's side, even from my mum's side. I'm half Armenian.

"To be honest, I don't want to go deeper than that, and I just wanted to show strength and support to my people. That's it."

On whether he had heard from the ITF since the complaint was made, Khachanov replied: "I didn't hear anything about that," adding that he has also not been told to stop writing the messages on cameras.

Khachanov will play Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open semi-finals on Friday.