French Open crowd ‘becoming like football’ says David Goffin after three hours of abuse

David Goffin cups his hand to his ear in response to the crowd's jeers
David Goffin cupped his hand to his ear in response to the crowd's jeers - Getty Images/Richard Callis

Belgian tennis star David Goffin called out the French Open’s fans for their “hooligan” behaviour after he was “spat” at during his five-set victory over home hope Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard.

Playing on Tuesday evening in front of a raucous crowd, Goffin showed great resolve to see off the 20-year-old prospect, then cupped his hand to his ear in response to the crowd’s jeers.

“When you are insulted for three hours, you have to tease the public a little,” Goffin explained afterwards. “Clearly, it goes too far, it’s total disrespect.

“It’s really too much. It’s becoming football, soon there will be smoke bombs, hooligans and fights in the stands. It’s starting to become ridiculous. Some people are there more to cause trouble than to create an atmosphere.

“Someone spat out their chewing gum at me. It was getting complicated. That’s why I wanted to stay calm. If I started to get angry about it, it could have destabilised me.”

The expectation that 2024 will be Rafael Nadal’s final Roland Garros seems to have boosted local interest this year, leading to thronged walkways and packed stands despite the showery weather.

Levels of demand for French Open tickets reached unprecedented levels. When the online auction opened in March, some fans reported finding themselves more than 700,000 places back in the queue.

Already this week, we have seen suggestions that the fervent home support may have influenced matters on the court, with French wild card Terence Atmane getting away with a warning when he walloped a loose ball into the body of a spectator. Three years ago, a similar incident led to world No1 Novak Djokovic being disqualified from the US Open.

The outside courts can often be the wilder ones, especially as the evening draws on. More drink has been taken and the fans press closer to the sides of the court.

“A lot of people are complaining, a lot of umpires feel that there is a lot of disrespect,” said Goffin after his 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 victory. “This is repeated a lot in the locker room and among the ATP authorities. We’re going to have to do something about that.

“I think it only happens in France. At Wimbledon, obviously, there’s not that. Or in Australia either. At the US Open, it’s still rather quiet. Here, it’s a really unhealthy atmosphere.”

Roland Garros organisers said: “The public are incredibly enthusiastic, particularly on the outside courts. However, they must of course show full respect to all players while doing so. Oversight bodies are in place to make sure rules are followed. Although it is only natural that fans share their excitement and cheer on their favourites, this may not in any case go against the values of tennis or consideration for the players.”

Goffin plays fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the second round on Thursday.