French Open descends into farce as fans refuse to leave Djokovic match

Novak Djokovic’s French Open quarter-final briefly descended into chaos on Thursday morning (AEST), with play halted in the fourth set so event organisers could empty the stands.

A strict Covid-19 curfew is enforced in Paris as part of the government’s lockdown exit plan, and French Open officials are subsequently required to ensure spectators leave the venue before the 11pm cut-off.

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Tennis fans voiced their disgust when play was suspended at 10.55pm part-way through the fourth set of Djokovic’s quarter-final against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.

Boos and jeers echoed around Court Philippe-Chatrier when Djokovic and Matteo retired to the sheds as security escorted spectators from the venue.

Some of the 5000 fans were heard singing: “We want to stay.”

Umpire James Keothavong urged spectators: “Respect the players, thank you.”

The players did not return for 15 minutes, eventually completing the match in front of empty stands.

Former Australian star Rennae Stubbs tweeted: “THIS IS SO DUMB! There is no one on the streets of Paris. So these people in the stands are the only ones out!!! wow … I do feel badly for @MattBerrettini right now. This absolutely takes away his momentum.

“They should have started earlier!!”

Some fans took extreme measures not to leave, as the video below shows.

Il ne voulait vraiment pas quitter le Chatrier

Tennis commentator Jose Morgado called the situation a “mess” while journalist Ben Rothenberg wrote: “Pretty lame, throwing fans out of the stadium before a match is over. Three hours is too small a window to reliably finish a best-of-five. Hope these fans get refunds.”

Reporter Stuart Fraser tweeted: “Another shambles courtesy of the FFT.”

The players, Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini, have left the court in their Quarterfinals match at #rolandgarros2021 as tournament organizers clear the stadium of all spectators at the 11pm curfew. The players will resume play in an empty stadium.

Break in French Open semi-final mid 4th set to clear out the unhappy crowd at the 11pm curfew. Can’t help admiring the way the Parisians are being so arsey and disobedient.

The curfew was extended two hours on Wednesday, the previous 9pm cut-off creating some “bonkers” scenes earlier in the grand slam tournament.

The French Open launched night sessions for the first time this year, reserving the day’s top match for prime time audiences as part of a new broadcast deal.

However, the nationwide curfew has given organisers an almighty scheduling headache.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) is in the first of a three-year contract with Amazon Prime Video that requires it to program the main match in the evening, tournament director Guy Forget told AFP.

However, pundits have blasted the night session matches all week, most notably after tennis icon Roger Federer played quite possibly his final Roland Garros match without a crowd cheering him on.

Novak Djokovic is through to the semi-finals.Source:Getty Images

Djokovic ultimately clinched a 6-3 6-2 6-7 7-5 victory against Berrettini, but the No. 9 seed gave the 18-time grand slam champion a mighty scare.

After the Serbian comfortably won the opening two sets, Berrettini claimed the third following a nailbiting tie-break.

The Italian saved two match points serving at 6-5 in the fourth set, but the world No. 1 showed his class by breaking serve.

Djokovic will face Spanish maestro Rafael Nadal in a mouth-watering semi-final on Saturday morning AEST.

— with Tyson Otto & AFP

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