Last night, after the six-time Grand Slam champ defeated Gael Monfils in a thrilling four-setter at the U.S. Open, a man rushed the court to give Nadal a hug and a kiss. Before security could react, the fan hugged the unsuspecting, shirtless Nadal before being dragged away.
Initially surprised, Nadal had a broad smile on his face during the brief encounter. When security personnel began to lead the man into custody, Nadal initially tried to stop them saying "it's OK" as the man was blowing kisses and making "you're No. 1" motions with his hands.
Ever cool, Nadal went immediately back to packing his tennis bag before standing for a post-match interview. Afterward he said of the incident:
"For me, it wasn't a problem. The guy was really nice. He said, 'I love you,' and he kissed me."
(Watch the video of the press conference here. Rafa's remarks about the fan come near the 3:30 mark.)
The security guard in the picture reacted as soon as the intruder jumped over the wall, but she wasn't able to get to him before he reached Nadal.
The incident was similar to one in the French Open final when a men dressed in Swiss colors and holding the flag of the Barcelona soccer team stormed the court to try and put a hat on Roger Federer. What we wrote at the time holds true today:
In the same way that banning bottles of water on airplanes after 9/11 didn't make air travel any safer, stationing an extra guy in a yellow shirt behind the line judge didn't protect tennis players all that much more. Streakers still pop up during Wimbledon matches, after all.
If a spectator wants to get on the court, no amount of security is going to stop that person. Unless tennis wants to go the soccer route and put up fences and moats to keep fans away, dealing with idiots running on the court is going to be an occupational hazard. Hopefully, the worst thing they'll try to do is put on a hat on Roger Federer.
Or, in this case, steal a kiss from Rafa Nadal.
Update: The man who stormed the court will be charged with tresspassing and faces possible jail time if convicted. Noam Aorta, 23, could get one year in prison and a $5,000 for rushing the court.
District Attorney Richard Brown said the fact that Aorta made contact with Nadal was "particularly disturbing". As we all know from the Plaxico Burress case, New York DAs mean business. I shudder to think at how much jail time Aorta would be facing if he had only hugged himself.
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