Farcical scenes as fans kicked out of French Open mid-match

·4-min read
Seen here, French Open fans leave before a 9pm Covid curfew in Paris.
French Open fans are forced to leave before a 9pm Covid curfew in Paris. Pic: Eurosport

The decision by French Open organisers to stage matches at night has led to farcical scenes at Roland Garros.

On a dramatic opening day that saw big guns Dominic Thiem and Angelique Kerber eliminated from the men's and women's draws respectively, Paris' Covid-19 curfew saw fans tossed out of stadiums in the middle of matches.

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The French capital has a 9pm Covid curfew in place meaning fans had to clear out of the grandstands at Roland Garros mid-match on day one.

Organisers knew the stark reality of the situation when they decided to give the green light for night matches at Roland Garros to be played for the first time in the history of the French grand slam.

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The decision to stage matches at night was made to benefit TV broadcasters, with crowds capped at 1000 for the three main courts anyway.

From June 9 the number of fans allowed inside the Philippe Chatrier centre court will increase to 5000, with the local curfew pushed back from 9pm to 11pm.

The situation on day one saw fans forced to leave before the curfew, with several matches momentarily halted while those in attendance cleared out.

One match affected on the opening night in Paris was local hope Corentin Moutet's showdown with Serbia's Laslo Djere.

Pictured here, Laslo Djere celebrates his French Open win against Corentin Moutet.
Laslo Djere beat Corentin Moutet in a first round clash interrupted by fans leaving due to a Covid-19 curfew. Pic: Getty

The contest was delicately poised at one-set all before the crowd was forced to leave, with the Serb eventually progressing to the second round.

A similar situation unfolded at the Italian Open earlier this month when Thiem was sensationally knocked out in Rome.

The World No.4 was ousted in three sets against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego, with fans forced to miss the local star's thrilling win in the deicing set due to a Covid curfew.

It brought back memories of Novak Djokovic's win over Taylor Fritz at the Australian Open in February, when fans inside Rod Laver Arena were forced to leave at midnight to comply with a Victorian Covid-19 lockdown.

Tennis fans were left stunned on the opening day at Roland Garros, with the biggest shock seeing two-time French Open finalist Thiem blow a two-sets-to love lead, before losing to to veteran Spaniard Pablo Andujar.

Big guns fall on dramatic day one

The Austrian has struggled for form since winning his first grand slam title at the US Open last year, but looked to be finding a way past Andujar when he won the first two sets.

However Andujar, who beat Roger Federer in Geneva last week, fought back to win 4-6 5-7 6-3 6-4 6-4 and record his first victory over a top-five player at the age of 35.

Thiem took a six-week break in March and April to step back from the demands of the tour and bubble life, and must now reflect on his first opening-round loss at Roland Garros.

The 27-year-old, who was seeded fourth, has reached at least the quarter-finals on his previous five visits - losing to Rafael Nadal in the final in 2018 and 2019.

Thiem also lost meekly to Britain's Cameron Norrie in Lyon last week and he was baffled by his performance.

"I was not struggling at all with my motivation but the game was just not there today," he said.

"All the shots are missing power. They are not accurate enough. I'm moving not well enough, so everything in my game, there are some percentages missing. 

"I don't really know why, because since I stepped back on court it's already two months, and I was really practising well, super intense as well.

"It's just not good enough at the moment. And it's a very tough situation."

Thiem wasn't the only big name to fall at the first hurdle on Sunday, with former World No.1 Angelique Kerber continuing her poor record at the French Open.

The German, seeded 26th, was knocked out by Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina.

Kerber has never made it past the quarter-finals at Roland Garros despite winning the other three grand slams once each.

Playing on court 14, she bowed out with a 6-2 6-4 defeat for her third first-round loss in a row on the Paris clay.

"She started well and had nothing to lose, while it took me too long to get into the contest," Kerber said.

with agencies

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