Australian Open umpire's staggering act after fan steals player's towel

Australian Open chair umpire James Keothavong went the extra mile for China's Zhu Lin after rogue fan stole her towel.

Two images show Australian Open umpire James Keothavang running to intercept a fan who stole a towel from Zhu Lin.
Australian Open umpire James Keothavong sprang into action when a rogue fan was spotted stealing a towel from first roud winner, China's Zhi Lin. Pictures: Channel 9

Players and chair umpires can often appear to be at odds during the grand slams, but Australian Open official James Keothavong went some ways to restoring peace earlier in the week. The highly-respected umpire leapt into action after a fan was spotting stealing a towel from Zhu Lin after her first round victory on court 14.

The Chinese competitor had just completed an impressive 6-2 6-4 over Canada's Rebecca Marino when a light-fingered fan looked to grab a souvenir. Marino actually pointed out that someone had pilfered a towel from Zhu's player box.

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Enter Keothavong, who was spotted on the broadcast leaping from his chair to chase down the fan in question. It's uncertain whether the official managed to track down the towel, despite the briefly dramatic chase.

Having officiated last year's French Open men's singles final, Keothavang is no stranger to the surprises a grand slam can present. As for Zhu, the World No.87 will look to advance beyond the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in her career.

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It'll be a hard task, up against 32 seed Jill Teichmann, who earned a straight sets victory of her own, against England's Harriet Dart. Teichmann showed impressive form leading into the Australian Open, with a quarter-final run at the Adelaide international 2.

Meanwhile, World No.1 Iga Swiatek advanced to the last 32 on Wednesday with a resounding 6-2 6-3 victory over Colombian Camila Osorio and was joined in the third round by third seed Jessica Pegula and sixth seed Maria Sakkari. Swiatek had to scrap her way back from a service break down in the second set of her less than convincing Open opener against Jule Niemeier on Monday night.

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That was the Pole's first outing since suffering a crushing loss to Pegula at the season-opening United Cup before withdrawing from the Adelaide International 2 with a shoulder issue. The reigning French and US Open champion was still below her brilliant best for periods against Osorio, dropping serve three times, but at least looks to be slowly warming to the task as the Melbourne Park title favourite.

Swiatek raced to an early 4-0 lead and broke the South American six times in taking the match in one hour, 24 minutes under a closed roof on Rod Laver Arena. "It was much tougher than this score says. It was really intense physically and Camila was really running to every ball. She didn't give up," Swiatek said.

"She didn't give me many points for free. So I needed to really work for each of them and it was tough, but I'm happy that I was proactive and trying to just play a little bit to put pressure (on her). But I'm pretty happy that I won and I can play next round."

The straight-sets victory set up a third-round meeting on Friday with either Canada's unseeded former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu or Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa. Pegula also marched on with a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich but Sakkari had a more challenging time advancing.

The Greek ace needed more than two and a half hours to see off Russian teenage qualifier Diana Shnaider 3-6 7-5 6-3.

With AAP

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