Fans make peace with the heat to support compatriots in the sun

Fans make peace with the heat to support compatriots in the sun

January 17, 2023

The temperature in Mariam Katsitadze’s home city of Tblisi, Georgia, was an icy minus three degrees on Tuesday afternoon, Melbourne time.

Meanwhile, 13,400km away in John Cain Arena at Melbourne Park it was a muggy 37 degrees. But it didn’t faze Katsitadze, 39, and her daughter Nila Tavadze, 13.

The pair waved a large, red and white Georgian flag in support of Nikoloz Basilashvili, the only male Georgian player in the Australian Open.

Mariam Katsitadze and her daughter Nila Tavadze.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 45 degrees, I want to support the Georgian player, Basilashvili,” Katsitadze said.

Katsitadze’s husband is a diplomat working in Melbourne, and she always brings a Georgian flag on her travels.

″⁣I am very proud of my country. I will never miss a chance to support Georgia.″⁣ She said the flag waving and calling out ″⁣Midi, Midi, Nikoloz!″⁣ — ″⁣Go, go, Nikoloz″⁣ may help the chances of Basilashvili, ranked 90 in the world against the much more fancied, ninth ranked and eight seeded American Taylor Fritz.

″⁣Why not?″⁣ she said. ″⁣I think he will appreciate it. We can cheer him up somehow.″⁣

Katsitadze said she agreed with Australian Open officials banning fans displaying the Russian flag.

″⁣That’s fair because something needs to stop them. When they realise that they are not welcome, in sport competitions, in cultural events and everything, they will stop the war, stop the violence.″⁣

Ukranian tennis fan Peter Pelyshchuk, Vitaly and Alex Davyd here to watch Oleksii Krutykh at the 2023 Australian Open.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Earlier, on court 17, brothers Vitaly and Alex Davyd and friend Peter Pelyshchuk wore Ukraine’s blue and yellow flags as cloaks and yellow shirts in support of Ukrainian player Oleksii Krutykh.

Vitaly, 19, whose parents are Ukrainian, said he was appalled at witnessing fans waving Russian flags at some Open matches.

″⁣It was very disappointing to see that people complained about the Russian flags and shirts and security did absolutely nothing about it. It was terrible.″⁣

Colombian tennis fan Santiago Piedrahita, 27 here to watch Daniel Galan.Credit:Chris Hopkins

The trio have vowed to attend as many of the Ukraine players’ Australian Open games as possible ″⁣to show people that we are true Ukrainians and that we support our country.″⁣

Elsewhere at Melbourne Park, Santiago Piedrahita, 27, from the city of Medellin, Colombia’s second biggest city, was proudly wearing a large Colombian flag as a cape.

Piedrahita said he had gotten used to the heat as he stood in the sun beside Court 12 where Colombian player Daniel Elahi Galan was playing Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

“Daniel, Daniel, Vamos, Vamos” or “let’s go, let’s go”, he shouted. “Probably, it cheers him up, helps him to get some points.

“It’s really hot … but I’m getting used to it now. I’m making peace with the heat now. ”

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