On a wing and a prayer, a pigeon is rescued by a French Open chair umpire during a match

PARIS (AP) — This one's for the birds: A pigeon landed on the court during a French Open match Saturday, leading the chair umpire to use a towel to rescue the fallen fowl.

The pigeon dropped to the red clay at Court Suzanne Lenglen — and remained on the ground — during a changeover in the fourth set of 2021 U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev's third-round victory over Tomas Machac at Roland Garros.

“I hope the bird was OK. It was not looking good. I think maybe something (was wrong) with the wing,” Medvedev said. “The referee did a good job. He was very gentle. I think (that's) important. I hope the bird is fine. Maybe they'll take it to the vet clinic or something. I don’t know; we need to ask what happened after.”

Indeed, eagle-eyed chair umpire Damien Dumusois did, um, fly into action, climbing down from his perch and grabbing a white towel. He approached the bird, which appeared injured and tried hopping away. Dumusois gave chase and eventually bent over, using the towel to grab the pigeon with both hands, earning cheers from spectators.

The umpire then carried it toward a doorway and handed it off to someone else, who held the bird aloft, drawing more applause.

Dumusois returned to his chair, got back up on his seat and announced that play would resume.

“Yeah, I saw that. I think he was a little bit struggling," Machac said, presumably talking about the pigeon, but also possibly about Dumusois. “I don’t know what happened. ... But you need to focus. You can’t try to watch that. It's tough, but I tried to focus.”

Medvedev, who next plays No. 11 seed Alex de Minaur with a quarterfinal berth at stake, actually found the brief interruption kind of helpful. It happened right after he won an 18-point game and the little extra time during the break let him catch his breath.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, if it gives me an extra minute to breathe, it would be perfect,’ and it did,” Medvedev said. “For me, it was a good moment.”

The match continued with Medvedev ahead 4-3 in the final set, and the fifth-seeded Russian completed his 7-6 (4), 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 win about 10 minutes later.

Ever seen that before during a match?

“No,” said Machac, a 23-year-old from the Czech Republic who beat Novak Djokovic last month. “I think it was the first time that this happened.”


AP Photographer Jean-François Badias contributed to this report.


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