MELBOURNE, Australia — A pro-Palestinian protester caused a momentary disruption during a match between Alexander Zverev and Cameron Norrie at the Australian Open on Monday. The protester threw papers onto the court before being stopped by other spectators.
Although Olympic champion Zverev stated that he did not feel unsafe, he questioned why it took security several minutes to react, leaving it to tennis fans to intervene.
"It shouldn't be another fan dragging the other person out," Zverev commented, emphasizing that security personnel should have arrived promptly. He mentioned that security at Melbourne Park was generally tight for both players and spectators.
Multiple courts were targeted by protesters, who threw anti-war pamphlets onto them, as well as near the entrance to the tournament site.
During Zverev's match on Margaret Court Arena, a woman wearing a face mask tossed anti-war pamphlets onto the court behind the baseline during the sixth game of the third set.
The pamphlets had the message "Free Palestine" and "While you're watching tennis, bombs are dropping on Gaza" printed in black on white pages. Ball kids collected the papers, and the match continued after security escorted the protester away.
Zverev eventually won the match with a score of 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (3) and advanced to the quarterfinals against No. 2-ranked Carlos Alcaraz.
Norrie, who was serving at the time of the interruption, also expressed that he did not feel threatened by the incident.
"Those things happen nowadays," he said. "There were a couple of fans that actually helped out. But yeah, I don't think anyone felt threatened or anything. It was all right. I managed to hold my serve that game, so yeah."
Tennis Australia confirmed that two spectators assisted in stopping the protester on Margaret Court Arena, and their actions were appreciated.
"Venue security was deployed, and the individual was subsequently evicted from the event," organizers stated. "Anyone seeking to disrupt the event— as we saw tonight— will be removed."
Protest Erupts at Tennis Tournament
In a recent incident at the tennis tournament, a small group of people caused disruption by throwing pamphlets onto Margaret Court Arena, Kia Arena, and other areas of the tournament site. Victoria state police were notified immediately and took action.
One of the players, Zverev, revealed that he was unaware of the nature of the protest until he was informed during a news conference. He acknowledged the frustrations of individuals in light of unfortunate events happening worldwide but emphasized that a tennis match is not directly related.
Zverev also expressed his frustration with the tight security measures in place for players. He shared an instance where he was stopped from accessing the gym without his accreditation, even though security was already stringent within the players' area. He questioned the purpose of such strict measures when it took a significant amount of time for someone to respond to an actual incident.
A group claiming to be pro-Palestinian activists took responsibility for the protest. Their actions involved dropping pamphlets and playing loud audio mimicking bomb sounds in Gaza. These acts caused play to be halted on multiple courts.
The underlying cause behind this demonstration is the Israel-Hamas war, which commenced with an attack by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7. Tragically, the war resulted in the loss of over 1,200 lives, with the majority being civilians. Additionally, around 250 hostages were taken back to Gaza.
As tension continues to escalate, the Palestinian death toll from the war has risen alarmingly, surpassing 25,000 casualties according to the Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip's latest report.