Laver Cup protester delays match after setting guns, pitch on fire

A protester lit the court and his arm on fire during a match at the Laver Cup tennis event on Friday, briefly delaying the start of the second set between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman at the O2 Arena.

The activist, carrying a lighter and wearing a white T-shirt with a message about private jets, entered the black runway and sat down near the net. The person was eventually carried away by security guards.

“It came out of nowhere … I’ve never experienced an incident like this on the court,” Tsitsipas, the runner-up at the 2021 French Open, said afterwards. “I hope he’s okay.”

Tsitsipas spoke to the chair umpire to make sure it would be safe to continue play and asked for a mark left on the court to be cleaned up.

“A man gained access to the court this afternoon and was immediately removed by security,” Laver Cup said in a statement. “Play was stopped briefly, he has been arrested and the situation is being dealt with by the police.”

Tsitsipas earned a 6-2, 6-1 victory for Team Europe over Team World’s Schwartzman to give his team a 2-0 lead in the competition.

Roger Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam champion, was due to compete hours later on Friday in his final competitive match, teaming up in doubles with longtime rival Rafael Nadal.

Federer, 41, has not played an official match since Wimbledon in July 2021 and is ending his playing career after a series of operations on his right knee.

There have been other instances of high-profile tennis matches being interrupted in recent years, including during the 2009 final at Roland Garros when a man walked up to Federer and tried to put a hat on his head.

At this year’s French Open in June, a protester wearing a T-shirt with the message “We have 1028 days left” interrupted the men’s semifinal between Casper Ruud and 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic by attaching himself to the net with metal wires and glue and kneeling on the field.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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