Crowd Clashes in Melbourne

Jan 24, 2009

When you think of riots in sports crowds, there are certain sports which lend themselves to the image more than others. Football, for example. Tempers and pride run high, and with some international tensions thrown in, violence often ensues. For tennis, however, the image of violence in the spectators seems farfetched. Tennis is a passionate sport, but one never associates it with riots.

Unfortunately, there are such incidents of fights breaking out in the crowd in tennis. And the Australian Open seems to carry the biggest reputation. The outbreaks are few and far between during the actual tournament, but incidences have occurred for the past four years. Day 5 gave the tournament its fourth consecutive year of outbreaks, with some fans throwing punches with others and even managing to knock a woman unconscious. The fights started after Novak Djokovic beat Amer Delic on Court 2 at the Melbourne Arena, with two groups clashing outside the arena not long after the match.

Anybody who knows anything about the history of both Djokovic’s and Delic’s home countries will have understood why such a thing may have occurred. Matches between the Serb Djokovic and the Bosnian Delic always had the potential to cause violent dislike amongst two groups of supporters. It of course does not give them an excuse to act in such a way. Delic had pleaded with fans to not bring politics into tennis, and although it may be difficult to achieve in such circumstances, he is certainly true. Players come to play in Grand Slams to prove their worth in the rankings, to progress in the sport they love and enjoy themselves. Throwing nervous glances to their supporters to make sure they aren’t clashing with their opponents should not have to be an issue, particularly over such complicated politics.

As mentioned previously, such clashes are not uncommon to the Australian Open. It came as a shock to myself when I found an article discussing how the Melbourne police would ensure calm this year. Surely there isn’t violence at a tennis game, I thought. It seemed the antithesis of the image we have of other tournaments (to my knowledge, nobody’s ever thrown a bowl of strawberries and cream to make a political point at Wimbledon). Last year at the Australian Open, a group were pepper sprayed for disruptive behaviour which included chanting abuse at Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, and two years ago Serbian and Croatian supporters clashed.

It’s a sad but underlying truth; the passion that makes competitive sport what it is, can also cause great harm to its image. Let’s hope that the Australian Open – such a fantastic and entertaining Grand Slam – is not tarnished with a violent image.

- SophieG

Written by: SophieG

Add Your Comments

You must Sign In to post a comment.

« Back