Deadly snake halts play at Australia tennis tournament

Austrian Dominic Thiem’s match suspended for 40 minutes after reptile slithered its way courtside. He won the qualifier.

Dominic Thiem
Austria's Dominic Thiem encountered a deadly snake on court during his qualifying tennis match at the Brisbane International on Saturday [Frank Franklin/ AP Photo]

Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem had to face a tough battle during his qualifying tennis match at the Brisbane International – and also one of Australia’s most venomous snakes.

Thiem’s match against Australian James McCabe was suspended for 40 minutes on Saturday after a snake slithered courtside.

It was spotted by fans near the courtside electrical wires, prompting officials to call in security staff and stop play, as McCabe had just wrapped up the first set 6-2 against the 2020 US Open champion.

A professional snake catcher was summoned to snare the 50cm (20-inch) reptile and tease it into a bag. It was identified as an eastern brown snake and one of Australia’s most deadly reptiles.

“I really love animals, especially exotic ones,” Thiem said. “But they said it was a really poisonous snake and it was close to the ball kids, so it was a really dangerous situation.”

The former world number three told reporters after the match: “It’s something that has never happened to me and is something I’ll definitely never forget.”

Thiem, currently ranked no 98 after several years grappling with a wrist injury, was not yet out of danger when play resumed. He had to save three match points before winning the second set tiebreak. The 30-year-old then went on to clinch the deciding set for a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 win.

Thiem reached the final of the Australian Open in 2020 when he pushed the Serbian champion Novak Djokovic to five sets, and won the US Open later that year.

The Brisbane International is a tune-up event to the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, which begins on January 14 in Melbourne.

Former world number one Rafael Nadal will return to tennis – after almost a year on the sidelines because of a lingering hip injury – in Brisbane on Sunday when he plays a doubles match alongside Marc Lopez, whom he partnered with in 2016 to claim an Olympic gold medal.

Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, drew a qualifier in the singles draw as he gears up for the first stop of what could be his farewell tour.

The 37-year-old Spaniard, who has won the French Open a record 14 times, had to pull out of that event in May because of his injury.

Source: News Agencies