Crowd trouble hits Australian Open

Police use capsicum spray and eject supporters in Melbourne.

    A tennis fan covers his face after authorities used 
    capsicum spray on the crowd [AFP]
    Crowd trouble has reared its head at the Australian Open for the second successive year when police used capsicum spray on supporters wearing Greek colours before throwing them out of the event.

    The ruckus happened during the first-round match involving last year's runner-up Fernando Gonzalez of Chile and Konstantinos Economidis, a Greek qualifier ranked 142nd.

    Gonzalez had been leading 6-4 1-2 when the match was stopped for around 10 minutes as the fans were removed from the stadium by police.

    Tournament officials said three people had been sprayed and five evicted from the grounds and given 24-hour bans.

    Victoria Police are yet to make any statements on the matter.

    Eyewitnesses said trouble started when police stepped in to deal with a group of around 40 fans, who had been singing loudly between points in the match on Margaret Court Arena.

    "It was upsetting, I've never seen anything like it in my life at a tennis match," Stephen Butterick, a BBC Radio producer said.

    "The whole atmosphere had been like a Davis Cup match crossed with a football match.

    "The Chileans outnumbered them by about 8-1 but the Greek guys were in one corner of the court, chanting, making loads of noise. We were watching Gonzalez, and suddenly, I don't know why, a policeman appeared.

    "He tried to get someone and that stage there were two policemen. The other lads got up and started pushing and shoving and he (the policeman) sprayed some kind of mace spray.

    "That set them off again and then, there weren't enough policemen, never more than three or four.

    “The policemen to me looked a bit rattled; two guys against maybe 70-80, that's not good.

    "Then there was a second macing, and I'd say about a third of the Greek fans disappeared. One of the Greek lads who'd been sprayed then vomited, I have never seen anything like it at a tennis match in my life."

    The match resumed, but stopped again just one point later after more disruption in the crowd, before eventually the players were able to continue.

    The trouble came a year after Croatian and Serbian fans fought and chanted insults at each other at the tournament, resulting in 150 people being ejected from the venue by police and security officials.

    Tournament directors had promised that the event would have a "zero-tolerance" attitude for any trouble, helped by more CCTV coverage and a "significant" police presence.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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