Tsitsipas shrugs off fiery Laver Cup protest to give Europe 2-0 lead

Published September 24, 2022
STEFANOS Tsitsipas of Team Europe hits a return during the Laver Cup match against Team World’s Diego Schwartzman at the O2 Arena on Friday.—Reuters
STEFANOS Tsitsipas of Team Europe hits a return during the Laver Cup match against Team World’s Diego Schwartzman at the O2 Arena on Friday.—Reuters

LONDON: Stefanos Tsitsipas shrugged off a dramatic on-court protest by a demonstrator who set his arm ablaze to give Team Europe a 2-0 lead against Team World at the Laver Cup on Friday.

The Greek world number six crushed Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 at London’s O2 Arena following a tight opening win for Norway’s Casper Ruud against Jack Sock.

In the evening session, Roger Federer was due to team up with Rafael Nadal in the doubles for the final match of his glittering career. The long-time rivals, with 42 Grand Slam titles between them, will face American pair Sock and Frances Tiafoe.

Tsitsipas clinched the first set 6-2 before, during the changeover, a spectator ran on to the court and set his arm on fire.

The protestor, who was wearing a T-shirt that read “End UK Private Jets”, was quickly dragged off the court after water had been poured on his burning arm.

British media reported that he was a member of the End UK Private Jets group, which claims “carbon emissions in 2022 are genocide.”

Play resumed following a quick check to make sure the court surface had not been damaged, with Tsits­ipas looking untroubled.

Tsitsipas, overpowering the Argentine with his brutal forehand, struck 17 winners and committed just six unforced errors to seal victory in 77 minutes.

“It came out of nowhere,” Tsitsipas said. “I have no idea what this is all about. I never had an incident like this happen on court. I hope he is all right.”

Laver Cup organisers issued a statement on the incident that disrupted the match.

“A man accessed the court this afternoon and was promptly removed by security,” they said. “Play was stopped briefly. He has been arrested and the situation is being handled by the police.”

Earlier, Ruud edged out Sock 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 to put Europe 1-0 up after a close-fought opening match.

World number two Ruud initially proved too strong for the American, but Sock got back on level terms and forced a match tie-break.

Ruud recovered from trailing 3-0 to triumph, much to the delight of the packed crowd and his watching team-mates, with a fine forehand winner clinching the first point of the Ryder Cup-style team competition.

The Laver Cup features two six-man teams playing singles and doubles matches over three days.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2022

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