Karen Khachanov defended himself Tuesday after his support at the Australian Open for a contested Armenian enclave sparked a strongly worded complaint from Azerbaijan tennis officials.
The Russian, who has Armenian roots, wrote a message on a television camera lens after his fourth-round win at Melbourne Park that said: “Keep believing until the very end. Artsakh, hold on!”
In a previous round, the semi-finalist wrote: “Artsakh stay strong.”
They were referencing the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan over which Baku and Yerevan have fought two wars.
“I have Armenian roots. From my father’s side, from my grandfather’s side, even from my mum’s side. I’m half-Armenian,” he said after reaching the semi-finals, with an Armenian flag seen in Rod Laver Arena.
“To be honest, I don’t want to go deeper than that and I just…