A section of Australian Open fans have been called out by Russian tennis star Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, following a second round loss to Paula Badosa on Wednesday. Pavlyuchenkova says she was left feeling "uncomfortable" after fans in a new courtside bar section on Court 6 “started to scream and meow” at her in scenes described as "disturbing" by the 32-year-old.
The two-storey bar section at Court 6 is one of the newest additions at Melbourne Park and was built to transform the outer playing area into a destination for fun-loving fans. Australian Open boss Craig Tiley said in October that the idea around the 'Party Court' is that "it’s an elevated experience for our fans on all the courts”.
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However, the Party Court initiative is at the centre of backlash from Pavlyuchenkova, who accused "drunk" fans of disrespecting her during the loss to Badosa. The Russian conceded that a visible tattoo with the word 'meow' on her leg was behind some of the noises coming from rowdy supporters in the stands. However, she insisted fans needed to be more respectful of players during matches after taking issue with the treatment she received.
Pavlyuchenkova about Court 6: Awful court. I think I should make some comment to AusOpen. I was shocked first three games. When I stepped onto court, it was so noisy, like I'm in big restaurant, where everybody is talking and drinking, sound of plates and glasses #AusOpen
— Maxim Yanchevsky (@mak_astr) January 18, 2024
“It was super loud, like in the restaurant basically, people talking and eating and drinking,” Pavlyuchenkova said after her second round defeat. “I don’t know if they even watched the match. There were a couple of guys, I think they got drunk and they started to scream and meow [at me].
"I think maybe because I have this tattoo on my leg [which reads meow] or just because of course they had some drinks and so it was really disturbing. It was not nice to be honest. I was really annoyed at the start of the match. I have no problem playing on the outside courts, but this one was special in terms of the noise and also the court.”
Party Court atmosphere 'uncomfortable' for players
Pavlyuchenkova explained that tennis was unlike other sports such as the football codes, where shouting and cheering during the middle of the action is commonplace. The Russian pointed out that it's customary for fans to remain silent during rallies in tennis and refrain from calling out until after they are completed. She accused Australian Open officials of failing to consider and suggested the Party Court was introduced purely for its commercial benefit.
“I was actually thinking during the match, ‘What was the idea behind it?’ – yeah okay, maybe of course, for the fans, it’s super fun for them,” she added. “But tennis is a special sport in a way. It’s not like baseball, or other sports where you can eat and walk around, or like basketball. It is completely different. It’s very quiet in a way. So yeah, that was really uncomfortable.”
The Russian was by no means the only one who took issue with the Party Court, with her second round conqueror Badosa also expressing her discomfort with the rowdy nature of the venue. “It’s very noisy, very loud. It’s a little bit tough to concentrate there,” Spain's World No.100 said.
“Especially also the court is pretty fast. But I’m feeling well there, so I’m not going to complain,” Badosa said with a smile, in light of the fact she's won both her matches on the court at this year's tournament. “But I know it’s pretty loud. It’s not very comfortable for the players to play there.
“In my opinion, I don’t really like it because there’s a lot of noise, as I said. I mean, my opponent in the first round and (the one) now (has) also complained. It’s not very comfortable. I cannot listen to my team either if they want to say something or if I want to, like, talk to them. Even during the points, it’s quite noisy. I don’t know if it’s going to work in the future.”
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