Climate protesters interrupt Coco Gauff semifinal win at US Open

Match delayed by 49 minutes after environmental activist demonstration, including one person who glued their bare feet to the concrete floor.

American Coco Gauff, 19, beat Karolina Muchova of Czech Republic in a women's singles semifinal on Day 11 of the 2023 US Open tennis tournament [Robert Deutsch/USA Today via Reuters]

American teenager Coco Gauff shrugged off a disruption from climate protesters to reach the US Open final after beating the Czech Republic’s 10th seed Karolina Muchova.

The semifinal match was delayed by 49 minutes because of a disruption by four environmental activists in the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands on Thursday night.

Officials attempted to remove one of the protesters who glued their bare feet to the concrete floor of the arena. The four protesters were later taken into police custody.

When play resumed, sixth seed Gauff closed out a hard-fought second set to advance to the second Grand Slam final of her career, winning 6-4, 7-5.

“I always speak about preaching about what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it,” the 19-year-old from Florida said in her post-match interview.

“Obviously I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning up 6-4, 1-0, and I wanted the momentum to keep going. But hey, if that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.

“Would I prefer it not happening in my match – 100 percent, yeah,” she added. “I’m not going to sit here and lie.”

A demonstrator is being removed from the stadium by New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers during the semi final match between Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova and Coco Gauff of the U.S.
A demonstrator is removed from the stadium by New York City Police Department officers [Mike Segar/Reuters]

Extinction Rebellion group

Security guards and police officers confronted the protesters who wore shirts that read, “End Fossil Fuels”. The US Tennis Association said three of the demonstrators were escorted out of the stadium without further incident, but it took longer to remove the person who stuck his feet to the ground.

Police and medical personnel were needed in order to safely remove the glued person. All four activists were taken into police custody. Extinction Rebellion said it was responsible for the protest.

One of the protesters, who identified himself only as Ian, told The Associated Press the US Open has sponsorship deals with corporations whose policies are contributing to global warming.

“We are not trying to harm the athletes in any way. We have nothing against the sport,” he said. “But we are really trying to draw attention to an issue here that there will be no tennis left for anybody in the world to enjoy.”

Protesting fossil fuels

Spectators were asked to move away to clear a path for the police, who were cheered by fans sitting near the section where the disruption happened.

It is the latest in a recent series of protests at sporting events — and tennis, in particular — related to the use of fossil fuels.

At Wimbledon in July, two matches were interrupted when environmental activists jumped out of the stands at Court 18 and scattered orange confetti on the grass.

At a US Open tune-up tournament in Washington last month, about a dozen people were asked to leave the site after chanting and displaying signs protesting the use of fossil fuels.

The other women’s semifinal, between Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Madison Keys of the United States, began shortly after Gauff’s victory finished. It ended with Sabalenka winning 0-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (10-5) to reach her second Grand Slam final.

Gauff and Sabalenka will play each other for the championship in Ashe on Saturday.

Coco Gauff of the U.S. shakes hands with Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova after winning her semi final match
Coco Gauff shakes hands with Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova after winning her semifinal match [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]
Source: News Agencies