Liam Broady: French Open rowdiness even extends to nine-year-olds

Liam Broady plays a backhand against Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon 2023
Liam Broady claims fan disrespect has been going on for years - Julian Finney/Getty Images

British No 5 Liam Broady says player-baiting has become a spectator sport at Roland Garros, the historic tennis venue where a booze ban was instituted on Thursday.

This year’s French Open has been dominated by stories of unruly crowd behaviour, including David Goffin’s claim that a fan spat chewing gum at him during a match where he was “insulted for three hours”.

Other players have since backed Goffin’s position, with world No 1 Novak Djokovic saying on Thursday: “I support a player standing up against people who are disrespecting and heckling him.”

Speaking on TalkSport on Friday morning, Broady said: “A lot of players have said it’s been like that for a few years since Covid. I’ve had all sorts there, personal abuse. You try and laugh it off. But it’s difficult because you’ve only got 15 or 20 seconds between points and you’ve got a nine-year-old kid telling you what’s going to happen and insulting you. It’s a different experience.

“Last year in my second round of qualifying I had to ask for a group of people to get removed. I think it’s been happening for a few years now and the umpires don’t seem to be able to do anything.

“I do get the feeling at the French Open that a few guys go for a drink with their mates and see which players you can rattle. A lot of people don’t actually go to watch the sport.

“The sound [of people calling out during points] is not a problem, If you change that rule I think players would get used to it. It’s more about when people are personally going for a player, giving them verbal abuse. We use the towels and the towel box is right next to where people sit and Goffin is getting spat at.”

David Goffin of Belgium celebrates after winning against Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard
David Goffin had chewing gum spat at him by a spectator on Tuesday - Richard Callis/Getty Images

During a lunchtime press briefing on Thursday, tournament director Amelie Mauresmo announced that fans would no longer be able to take alcoholic drinks to their seats, and would only be able to consume them in the concourses.

Whether such rules can be reliably enforced is another question, however. One fan sitting in front of the media seats on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Thursday afternoon was holding a beer in each hand.

“The umpires are really going to be even more strict to [give] further respect to the players and respect the game,” Mauresmo said on Thursday. “This is something that we’re not going to tolerate, to overstep these two things. That’s for sure. So umpires have quite an important role in this matter.

“And definitely in terms of security, we’re going to try to see which people are maybe making [trouble ] because I think it’s a few individuals at some point that are overstepping.”

This is the second straight year that fan behaviour at Roland Garros has become a talking point among the players, although last year the complaints mainly related to booing and jeering rather than direct personal abuse.

For some reason, a player only has to speak to the umpire at the French Open to earn a chorus of boos (unless that player is French, of course). Occasionally, even a celebration can be enough to spark a negative reaction. Last year, Djokovic complained about a lack of respect after he was booed for punching the air during a tense third-round win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

“There are people – there are groups or whatever – that love to boo every single thing you do,” Djokovic said then. “That’s something that I find disrespectful and I frankly don’t understand that.”

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