US Open climate protest during Coco Gauff semi-final vs Karolina Muchova

The US Open has been shut down for almost an hour after an environmental protest rocked the semi-final between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova on Friday morning.

The blockbuster match was suspended while security and police attempted to remove protesters sitting inside Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.

Gauff was clearly upset by the situation, but was eventually able to keep her composure and moved through to her first US Open final with a 6-4 7-5 win over her Czech opponent.

The 19-year-old missed five match points before setting up a sixth match point on the back of an insane 40-shot rally where she finally converted to wrap up the match after more than two hours.

It was an incredible show of maturity after the match had earlier been rocked by the disruptive protest.

Three fans wearing t-shirts with the slogan “end fossil fuels” began chanting from seats inside the upper deck of the stadium after Gauff went ahead 1-0 in the second set.

Security was unable to remove the fans and the response from security staff has been widely criticised. When police arrived the protesters were still not evicted immediately.

While two protesters were eventually led away by police, a third remained at the same location for an extended period of time.

US Open Tournament Director Stacey Allaster eventually confirmed the protester had glued his feet to the concrete beneath his seat.

“As we’ve witnessed, we had environmental protestors up in the loge (grandstand) area. We had three, two were removed, quietly left,” Allaster told ESPN.

“When security got there, they found one of the protestors had physically glued himself by his bare feet to the cement floor.

“There’s no doubt in a 24,000-seat stadium people get ideas. We know environmental protestors use the platform (of events like this). Certainly security will be resuming – along with law enforcement – to see what we can do to prevent it in the future.”

There were loud boos inside the stadium as the third person was led away.

Tournament officials said in a statement: “The fan in question affixed himself to the floor and due to the nature of this action, medical professionals, NYPD and security personnel were needed in order to resolve the issue and remove the fan from the stands”.

The crowd was earlier heard chanting “Kick. Them. Out,” as the delay extended.

Afer a lengthy delay players were taken off the court to return to the locker room and were told they would be given a short three-minute warm-up when the match eventually resumed.

Gauff was clearly angry about the delay, as she took a lead in the second set, having won the first set 6-4.

During an exchange with her coach Brad Gilbert before she left the court, Gauff was heard telling those sitting in her players’ box: “They’re on the phone negotiating like it’s a hostage situation”.

Gilbert was also heard saying: “This is a joke”.

Tennis commentators from around the world were left bemused about the failure from police and security in being unable to resolve the situation quickly.

Tennis journalist Jose Morgado wrote on Twitter the scene was “utterly pathetic really”.

When play eventually resumed, both players were able to hold serve and the second set continued without further incident.

The incident is the latest in a series of protests by climate activists targeting major sporting events around the world.

In July, three people were arrested after disrupting play at Wimbledon, scattering orange confetti and jigsaw pieces over the court. The three were subsequently charged with aggravated trespass and face criminal prosecution.

In a separate incident at the Ashes cricket Test between Australia and England at Lord’s in London in June, two men from the “Just Stop Oil” movement ran onto the field and scattered orange powder.

There were similar demonstrations during the recent World Snooker Championship and English Premiership rugby final.

The group has also targeted Premier League matches and the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

— with AFP

Originally published as US Open rocked by protest, ‘hostage negotiation’