French Open bans alcohol in stands after spitting fan claim

Belgium's David Goffin looks unimpressed
Belgium's David Goffin has claimed that a fan spat chewing gum at him - Getty Images/Richard Callis

The French Open has banned the consumption of alcohol in the stands after rowdy behaviour over the last five days, including one unpleasant incident where Belgium’s David Goffin claimed that a fan had spat chewing gum at him.

Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo held a briefing on Wednesday in which she said that security would be beefed up around the grounds in order to keep the fans in line.

From now on, spectators will be allowed to drink in the concourses but not take alcoholic beverages to their courtside seats.

“The umpires are really going to be even more strict to [give] further respect to the players and respect the game,” Mauresmo said. “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 is maybe making [trouble ]... because I think it’s a few individuals at some point that are overstepping.

”[Security personnel will] try to calm them down or they go out. If they go too far, they go out.”

According to Mauresmo, there have been no ejections of spectators to date. Although tournament organisers tried to investigate Goffin’s complaints about “a really unhealthy atmosphere” on far-flung Court 14 on Tuesday night, they were unable to identify any individual offenders.

“We’ve tried to gather yesterday information on what happened and how we can do the things so these kind of new rules are from this morning,” Mauresmo said. “So we’ll see how it goes.

“We are happy that people are very enthusiastic about watching tennis, about being part of the matches, about feeling emotions and showing emotions. But yes, definitely there are steps that they shouldn’t go further [than].

“I don’t want to be negative and I’m an optimist. I’m really [hoping] to see that people are gonna react in a good way and that it’s gonna be okay, and if it’s not, we will take other measures.”

Rowdy fans have been an issue all week at this dank and drizzly Roland Garros. First, they were accused of creating a “circus” of an atmosphere on Court 12, which may have helped French wild card Terence Atmane escape with just a warning when he slapped a loose ball into the body of a spectator.

Then there was Goffin, who spoke of being “insulted for three hours” during his first-round victory over another home favourite: Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard. As Goffin added, “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.”

Finally, on Wednesday, world No 1 Iga Swiatek used the on-court interview after her thrilling victory over Naomi Osaka to complain about shouts during rallies. “I am sorry to bring this up,” she said, “but when you scream something during the rally or right before the return, it’s really, really hard to be focused.”

One thing that has changed at Roland Garros in the last couple of season is the ready availability of beer. Where once you had to queue up at the bars, there are now self-service taps on the concourses, and mobile vendors carrying booze around in backpacks.

Even last year, at least three players complained about the boorish behaviour of the French fans, with Daria Kastakina saying: “Leaving Paris with a very bitter feeling. Yesterday I was booed for just being respectful on my opponent’s position not to shake hands... Be better, love each other. Don’t spread hate.”

Meanwhile, Goffin was back in action on Thursday, losing to Germany’s Alexander Zverev in straight sets. With no French player on show in this second-round meeting, there were no repeats of the wild behaviour that caused the original fuss on Tuesday night. But Goffin said that he had received a positive response to his comments.

“I don’t know how many people and how many players came to me and were on my side,” Goffin explained. “Everybody was, like, ‘OK, what you said is great, I agree.’ Everybody is behind me, so I’m really surprised.”

As for the alcohol ban, Goffin said “Hopefully it’s good what Amélie did because if they continue like that … you never know if they’re going to come with firecrackers. Look at the fans in football. I don’t think this is what we want here in the world of tennis.

“The most important thing is to try to encourage the players we like. But then saying things against the players you don’t like is not really part of the ethics for the fans I think.”

The new directive was apparent during Novak Djokovic’s match against Roberto Carballes Baena with umpire Nico Helwerth telling one noisy spectator he would be asked to leave if he continued.

Djokovic said: “I understand that, you know, a player like Goffin the other day reacted, because I have experienced quite a few times those particular situations.

“So I support a player standing up, you know, against people who are disrespecting and heckling him. It’s not always possible, you know, to tolerate.”

And the Czech player Katerina Siniakova, who lost a deciding-set tie-break to France’s Chloe Paquet after an intense battle, also backed Mauresmo’s decision. “It was definitely loud,” Siniakova said. “Every player understands that they are supporting French player, but I think they should be respectful of other player, and sometimes I am missing this. So I agree [with Mauresmo].”