Tennis: Goffin claims he was spat at by French Open fan, warns of tennis 'hooligans'

AFP , Wednesday 29 May 2024

Belgium's David Goffin claimed he was spat at by a French Open spectator and warned that tennis is in danger of descending into the grip of "hooligans".

David Goffin
Belgium's David Goffin celebrates after winning his men's singles match against France's Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard on day three of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 28, 2024. Photo: AFP


Goffin said a fan spat chewing gum at him as he defeated French player Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3 on a raucous Court 14 at Roland Garros.

When the Belgian left the arena, he cupped his ear to all four sides to counter the jeers.

"When you are insulted for three and a half hours, you have to annoy the public a little," Goffin said.

"Clearly, it goes too far, it's total disrespect. It's becoming like football, soon there will be smoke bombs, hooligans and there will be fights in the stands.

"It's ridiculous. Some are there more to make a scene than to set the mood."

The 33-year-old added after the match late Tuesday: "Today, someone spat out their chewing gum at me."

French women's number one Caroline Garcia said she "feels sorry" for Goffin.

"Thank God I never experience it, and I hope it will never happen again," said Garcia after being knocked out of the tournament by Sofia Kenin on Wednesday.

"In every sport sometimes there are fans who go too far. We are all here to play tennis and we are all here to watch and enjoy tennis. Even if we have our favourite player we want to cheer with respect."

On Wednesday, tournament officials reminded spectators of the need to behave.

"The crowd brings an incredible fervour," they said in a statement.

"But it is obvious that this must be done with respect for all the players. While it is normal for fans to come and share their enthusiasm and cheer on their favourites, this should in no way compromise the values of tennis and consideration for the players."

At last year's French Open, fans were branded as "embarrassing" and even "feral" especially when attempting to push a home player over the line.

On the opening day, Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk was booed for refusing to shake hands with Belarusian opponent Aryna Sabalenka in protest over the ongoing war in her country.

"I want to see people react to it in 10 years when the war is over. I think they will not feel really nice about what they did," said Kostyuk.

"People should be embarrassed."

Also in 2023, America's Taylor Fritz was irritated by a partisan night-time crowd desperate to see last remaining home player Arthur Rinderknech make the third round.

At one stage, fans even sang the French national anthem.

'Adds spice'

When he wrapped up victory, Fritz placed his finger to his lips to shush his tormentors before theatrically blowing kisses.

The jeers continued as he attempted to carry out the traditional on-court TV interview.

"The crowd was just so great that I had to let it fire me up. They cheered so well for me, I wanted to make sure I won. Thanks guys," the American said sarcastically.

It has been 41 years since France was able to celebrate a men's champion at Roland Garros when Yannick Noah triumphed in 1983.

Mary Pierce was the last home female winner in 2000.

Defending champion Novak Djokokic was jeered on Tuesday night by fans convinced he was taking too long to dust himself down after a tumble on the clay of Court Philippe Chatrier in his win against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Last year Djokovic chose to mimic the crowd's boos after he was targeted for taking a medical time-out in his victory against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

"There are people who love to boo every single thing you do," said Djokovic.

"When somebody is disrespectful he or she deserves to have an answer to that."

Despite Goffin's irritations with the crowd, his 2.03m (6ft 7in) opponent Mpetshi Perricard said he enjoyed the support of fans left frustrated by rain delays which had caused a five-hour suspension of play.

"It's really fantastic to have these guys there," said the 20-year-old.

France's Lucas Pouille, a former top 10 player, said fans at Roland Garros had not particularly crossed the line.

"It adds spice to a sport that can sometimes be flat," he told Eurosport.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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