Tennis: 150 spectators ejected from Aussie Open after ethnic brawl - 14/01/2007
Source : AFP
Police have ejected about 150 spectators from the Australian Open after an ugly brawl broke out between Serbian and Croatian fans inside the ground.
Fans wearing the national colours of the bitter Balkan rivals clashed in the Rod Laver Arena after taunting and hurling insults at each other.
Witnesses said they kicked and punched each other and set upon their rivals with flagpoles before dozens of police and security staff rushed in to end the melee and eject the combatants after confiscating their tickets.
"They were mostly Serbians ejected as they were upsetting the Croatians," Victoria state police spokeswoman Katherine Jess said.
Earlier, a group of fans gathered in central Melbourne and lit flares as they made their way to the stadium.
"It's bad because you go to the tennis and you go to watch and then it ends up in an actual brawl, it's just ridiculous," a Croatian fan called Marina told Australian Associated Press.
"You go to cheer on your actual player, not to go and fight."
Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said there were no injuries or arrests and security staff had acted swiftly to end the fight.
He said fans in national colours had always been a welcome feature of the season-opening Grand Slam but organisers would not let troublemakers ruin the day for other patrons.
"We hope that today’s well coordinated response sends a clear message that while we are happy for fans to come along and support their favourite player, decisive action will be taken if any patrons, or groups, cross the line of acceptable behaviour at this family event," he said.
The Serbian fans had gathered to support in-form youngster Jelena Jankovic, while the Croats were at the tournament for daytime matches involving Mario Ancic, Karolina Sprem and Ivan Ljubicic.
Serbian Novak Djokovic plays China's Nicolas Massu in a night session.
Ancic said he knew nothing about the disturbance, which occurred as he was cruising to a straight sets victory over Japan's Go Soeda.
"No, I had no idea," he said, before defending Croatian fans.
"We are well known for great support but correct support. I don't know (of) any excess ever."
Serbian supporters were criticised at last week's Sydney International final when they booed Belgian Kim Clijsters during her win over Jankovic and chanted during her victory speech.
Melbourne has large Croatian and Serbian populations and rivalries between the communities has in the past spilled over into violence at football matches.
Community leaders from both sides condemned the violence but blamed each other for the clash.
"National pride is one thing but this is unacceptable," Croatian Community Association secretary Tom Starcevic said.
"I wasn't there but from what I've seen and heard the Serbs were quite provocative."
Serbian Cultural Club president, Toma Banjanin, said Croatian supporters provoked Serbian fans by flaunting their colours.
"You didn't see many Serbs dressed that way," Banjanin said. "I think Croats are always overdoing things, they are always mixing politics with sport."Source: The Australian - 16/01/2007Police put heat on ethnic brawlers
A TASKFORCE of detectives will review footage of a racial brawl at the Australian Open tennis tournament in a bid to lay charges.
Searing heat in Melbourne, which has forced the cancellation of matches at Melbourne Park today, has helped avert further trouble, police said.
As many as 150 Croatian and Serbian supporters were ejected from the international tennis tournament yesterday after a mass brawl erupted between rival fans, many dressed in national colours.
Officials were today bracing for repeat scenes with Croatian tennis player Marin Cilic and Serbian player Ilia Bozoljac due to meet on court 21 this afternoon.
Staff used hand-held metal detectors to screen fans entering the Melbourne Park complex as individual private security guards and police in small groups patrolled areas near the courts and refreshment stands.
But after the gates opened this morning, there was no sign of fans from either side of the ethnic divide anywhere near the court complex.
Acting Superintendent Chris Duthie a taskforce of detectives from the Melbourne criminal investigation unit would examine footage of yesterday's clash.
"They have already started investigating. We need to obtain the footage now and we can go from there," Mr Duthie told AAP.
There was no hint of trouble at the tournament today as the temperatures soared into the high 30s, Mr Duthie said.
Matches under way at the Open will be completed, but no new matches will begin outside the two main courts until the temperature drops below 35C under the tournament's extreme heat policy.
This means the match between Croatian tennis player Marin Cilic and Serbian player Ilia Bozoljac, feared as a possible flashpoint for a repeat of the brawl, will be postponed. Source:Tennis Reporters - 16/01/2007Serbian-Croatian clash, tennis style
FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN - One observer said that there were a few chairs thrown, a couple of punches launched and a series of swift kicks to the legs. That's how the '07 Australian Open began, with big groups of Serbian and Croatian fans going at each other in the common areas outside of the arena. Some 150 fans were tossed off the grounds early in the day, although many of them likely had visions of completing a 24-hour pub run anyway.
That's not what you would call an inauspicious start to a Grand Slam, but it's one that has to be paid attention to. Why? Because as the sport continues reach across the globe, more and more fans from non-traditional tennis nations will attend events and, if their supporter training is in sports where unruly behavior is occasionally glorified (i.e. soccer, American football, Aussie Rules football), then it will take a significant amount of training from rational fans to teach them that screaming nationalistic slogans that have no relevance to the proceedings at hand have little relevance in the sport. Plus, pleading out loud for someone's errors isn't kosher either, nor is brawling near children in the mid-afternoon sun.
Will hooliganism creep it's way into tennis? Doubtful, but there was a sniff of it on Monday.
Word has it that in Melbourne, Croatian and Serbian immigrant groups have been going at hard for years when rooting for their local soccer clubs, which previously, were formed along ethnic lines. Now that there is more than a fair share of significant Croat and Serbian tennis players - Croatians Ivan Ljubicic, Mario Ancic and Karolina Sprem, and Serbians Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic just for starters - there is plenty of reason to show up at Melbourne.
Apparently, there's also a reason to show in Sydney, where last weekend, Serbian fans railed at Kim Clijsters during her final-round win over Jelena Jankovic.
"Here in Melbourne it's a little bit strange because I think it's just a sport and people should just come and enjoy the game," Jankovic said. "It's not about where you're from or … you either like the player and you'll cheer for them, but you don't have to cheer against them just because they are from some country, and I think that's wrong. … But I don't like when they are fighting against each other and kind of booing the other player just because they are from some other country. I think that's not fair. So that's just my opinion I think the game should just be fair and they should clap for good points and support the player they like, but they shouldn't be really mean and really bad and fight against the other just to make the other one feel bad."
Hopefully, Jankovic's advice will be taken seriously when Croat Marin Cilic takes on Serb Ilia Bozoljac on Tuesday. Things should be, as the Spaniards might say "tenistically" more civil.
It was only an exhibition, but Andy Roddick was obviously pleased. In fact, he was more than pleased.
Three days ago in Kooyong, Roddick bested the nearly unbeatable Roger Federer in the final. He was 1-12 against Federer entering the contest, but the result is not counted in his ATP record against the Swiss. Still, heading into a Grand Slam where he could meet the nine-time Grand Slam champion in the semifinal, it was a big boost of confidence.
His good friend Mardy Fish, who has played against and watched hundreds of hours of matches with Roddick, said that it would be silly to toss out the result.
"You definitely take that," said Fish, who shocked Ivan Ljubicic in four sets. "Maybe if they play here, he gets up early, he can remember stuff that he did. They were both trying. Roger, he doesn't want too lose, even if it's an exhibition. He definitely doesn't want to lose. Maybe he wasn't taking it completely as this week. But he doesn't want to lose, for sure."
Roddick didn't play nearly as well in the first round of the Australian Open as he did against Federer, but he did manage to right his ship when it counted and took down French wildcard Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7(18), 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-3.
Few observers believe that Roddick has a realistic chance of winning his first Australian Open – not because he hasn't been playing well since he hired his new coach, the legendary Jimmy Connors, back in July – but because Federer has lost only once since that time. Roddick nearly took out Federer back in Shanghai, but was unable to secure two match points in the contest and eventually left the facility a three-set loser, but not before busting a few rackets in the locker room before he headed toward transportation.
A-ROD: A TOUGH, NEVER-SAY-DIE COMPETITIOR
But, if nothing else, Roddick hates to lose and is still the same fast-taking, big-serving kid who won the '00 US Open juniors. He's a confrontational guy who is very protective of his reputation. To the sometime Texan, sometimes Floridian, that reputation is of a tough, never-say-die competitor who has a big-time game. It's not the reputation of a man who will lie down in front of anyone, even the multitalented Federer.
For a while, the Swiss was into his head and deeply into his backhand and his serve.
But since Roddick pushed him for two sets in the '06 US Open final and showed off a much-improved net attack in Shanghai. He's done more than just hope. He's bringing improved weapons to the table and now can say that he has a legitimate shot to beat him. He's not the favorite by any means and will never play as pretty or move with same grace, but he can hurt him and Federer now seems to know it.
In the third set of Kooyong, Roddick said they both laid it on the line.
"I think we both kind of started playing a little bit in the third set," Roddick said. "I think we would have been feeling each other out in the first two. But I don't know. I don't know if it's the same as a Grand Slam final, and that's why I said you have to be a little bit guarded with the emphasis you put on that match."
Connors' mother, Gloria, passed away at the beginning of the month and he's not here with Roddick. He may or may not come to Melbourne, but Roddick isn't even going to mention it. His brother, John, who also serves as his traveling coach, is here, and both of them have been in daily contact with Connors.
"I've talked to him every day since I've been here," Roddick said. "John has been talking to him, as well. I don't know [if he'll come] at this point. When we talk, we talk tennis. And the last thing I'm going to kind of concern him with right now is putting pressure on him in any way, shape or form."
Roddick might have used Connors in his corner against Tsonga, as he started very slow and was in a real hole being 2-5 in the second set. But eventually, he found his timing, serve and get more stick on his ground strokes. While he still may look a kid fresh out of the skateboard park, he's much more experienced now and trusts his instincts.
Connors would have been proud how he stuck it out and reversed the pressure of the occasion to his opponent's shoulders.
"It was a pretty ordinary performance but I got better as I went along," Roddick said. "We thought he might go for broke but we did not think he would keep it up. I was giving him opportunities more than I should have. I kept thinking that he was going to crack somewhere along the line."
And Tsonga did. With Ivan Ljubicic out of his quarter courtesy of Fish, Roddick is looking like very solid pick to get to the semis. Then we'll see whether Kooyong was just a daydream.
"You can't really ask for better preparation than playing with that field and knowing you're going to get three matches against those type of players, to get some wins," Roddick said. "If you have a chance to win or lose, you're normally going to choose to win. It's a good thing as well."