Published On: Mon, May 13th, 2024
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Protesters storm multiple Italian Open courts as matches suspended in Rome | Tennis | Sport

Multiple matches at the Italian Open were suspended on Monday as protesters stormed two of the outside courts while a third demonstration was prevented from taking place on Grand Stand. Madison Keys and Sorana Cirstea were among the players forced to return to the locker room following the incidents.

The two identical protests took place within minutes of each other at the Foro Italico. Keys was leading by a set and 3-1 when two demonstrators ran onto the court throwing confetti.

Boos rang out across the Pietrangeli court as one protester stood by the net and put on a hi-vis jacket before security guards ran over and carried him off the court, with Keys and Cirstea watching from their benches. Both players reconvened at the net with the umpire as court attendants worked to sweep away the confetti.

But it was a tricky job with the pieces getting stuck in the clay, and the match was suspended. Moments later, the same thing happened on Court 12 where fifth seeds Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Santiago Gonzalez were facing Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic in an ATP doubles match.

Arevalo and Pavic were 6-1 4-2 up when play was also suspended on their court to allow time for the confetti to be cleared. And there was a near miss on one of the bigger show courts when another attempt at a protest was thwarted in the stands.

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex De Minaur were supposed to begin their first-set tiebreak when they were both made to wait at their benches as the umpire could be heard communicating with someone. Sky Sports commentators were left confused when they switched to the match and saw that play had briefly been halted.

“Let’s just nip over to Grand Stand arena where Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex De Minaur and are currently doing battle out there. They are just about to start a first-set tiebreaker here so I’m not entirely sure what the delay is for right now. Umpire Manuel Messina on the walkie talkie so clearly something has happened,” Adam Fielder said.

He quickly learned of the protests happening elsewhere on the grounds, adding: “Just hearing there’s some protesters on the outside courts here in Rome so I don’t know whether it’s the case here on Grand Stand Arena but that is far from ideal if that’s the case.

“The good news is they are just about to start this first set tiebreak, let’s hope that doesn’t cause any unwanted disruption as the day goes on.” It later emerged that tournament security had been able to stop protesters in the stands before the same happened on a third court.

But the match on Pietrangeli remained suspended for around 45 minutes before Keys and Cirstea finally returned. The protesters have not yet identified themselves or their cause.

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