The US Open was thrown into disarray on Thursday when environmental activists stopped play and forced a 49-minute break, making it the latest high-profile athletic event to come under attack.
Four protesters wearing t-shirts with the words “end fossil fuels” started chanting the same phrase during game two of the second set of the semi-final match between American teenager Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Security personnel pushed in on the demonstrators, who were from the environmental advocacy organization Extinction Rebellion (XR), to jeers and yells of “kick them out” from other onlookers.
According to tournament authorities, one of the demonstrators bonded his feet to the stadium’s concrete floor, making it difficult for him to leave the area quickly.
Just after 8 o’clock local time, Gauff was up 6-4, 1-0 in the second set as Muchova prepared to serve.
Gauff and Muchova calmly waited on the court for a while before leaving to go back to the locker rooms.
“Following the first game of the second set in the Gauff-Muchova match, play was halted due to a protest conducted by four spectators,” the US Tennis Association said in a statement.
“Three of the four protesters were escorted out of the stadium without further incident. The fourth protester affixed their bare feet to the floor of the seating bowl,” the statement added.
“Due to the nature of this action, NYPD and medical personnel were needed in order to safely remove this individual from the stadium.”
The USTA reported that police had detained all four spectators.
Television footage captured Gauff and Muchova attempting to maintain their casual demeanors while speaking with the coaching staff during the unusual delay.
After a play break that was officially timed at 49 minutes, Gauff and Muchova eventually made their way back onto the court at about 8:50 p.m. local time. Gauff, 19, went on to triumph 6-4, 7-5 in a rout.