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Flags and Wallies: Melbourne Park fans spark player anger at Australian Open

Flags and Wallies: Melbourne Park fans spark player anger at Australian Open

  • Djokovic rails at ‘drunk’ spectator on Rod Laver Arena
  • Russian player Rublev barracked by Ukraine supporters

Spectators at the Australian Open were in the spotlight on Thursday after separate incidents sparked player anger on the court at Melbourne Park and the crowd stayed until 4am watching Thanasi Kokkinakis play Andy Murray.

In his second-round match against France’s Enzo Couacaud on Rod Laver Arena, Novak Djokovic complained to the umpire after appearing to be barracked by a supporter, one of several dressed in a Where’s Wally? costume.

“Can we get this guy out?” he asked the umpire during the fourth set. “You know who it is. The guy is drunk out of his mind. From the first point he’s been provoking. He’s not here to watch tennis. He just wants to get in my head.

“You’ve heard him at least 10 times. I’ve heard him 50 times. Why don’t you get the security guard and get him out of the stadium?” The spectators were later escorted out of the arena.

The nine-time champion eased through 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-0, but a hamstring injury continues to be a concern. “It is not good at all. I will take it day to day,” he said. “It was better last match, the feeling, than tonight. I hope I will be able to recover and be ready for a tough match next up.”

Djokovic had strapping on his left thigh and was restricted in his movement throughout Thursday night’s match, taking a medical timeout late in the second set.

He will not practice before his next match against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday, instead focusing on rehabilitating an injury that flared up in Adelaide earlier this month.

“I am worried. I mean, I cannot say that I’m not. I have reason to be worried,” Djokovic said. “I’m going to try to play and compete with, of course, a great player Dimitrov in a couple days’ time.”

Two spectators hold a Ukrainian flag next to Andrey Rublev of Russia during his second round match against Emil Ruusuvuori

Earlier in the day, Russia’s Andrey Rublev also complained to the umpire about spectators during his tie against Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland. Two men at the Kia Arena could be seen waving a Ukraine flag in the direction of the No 5 seed.

“The flag, for me, it’s OK,” Rublev told the umpire early in the second set during his 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 win. “But they are saying bad words to me.”

After the match Rublev said: “It was not about the flag. I said straightaway to the referee, it’s not about the flag, they can put any flag they want. I understand completely the situation. It was more that they started to tell me bad words and bad things.”

Last Feburary, Rublev wrote a “no war please” message on a courtside camera after beating Hubert Hurkacz at the Dubai Duty Free Championships. Russian flags were banned from Melbourne Park on Tuesday after fans waving one in the crowd provoked strong criticism from the Ukrainian ambassador.

Hardy spectators were later treated to what could go down as the latest tournament game ever played when Andy Murray and Thansi Kokkinakis slugged it out for six hours in a five-set epic that didn’t end until after 4am on Friday.

Andy Murray just hit the best forehand that’s ever been struck at 4am. #AusOpen

— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) January 19, 2023

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