Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jewish tennis player taunted with 'Osama' jibes

From here:

American journeyman tennis pro Paul Goldstein has played tennis all over the world. He is no stranger to rowdy or hostile crowds.

But during his first round match against Serbian Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open on Tuesday, he experienced something new. During his ball toss, a group of pro-Djokovic fans screamed "Osama". Soon thereafter, a fight broke out in the stands.

Goldstein, who is Jewish, said: "While I'm serving, I'm hearing a little Osama bin Laden stuff. I didn't say one word to them. American friends were standing right next to them and at one point [said], 'Why don't you shut up?' So they got into it."

The Goldstein incident underlines one of the more unsavoury aspects of tennis' first grand slam tournament - the increasingly boorish behaviour of its fans.

In an another match, the second-round clash between Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus and the Czech Radek Stepanek, the cheering for the Cypriot went beyond good-natured.

In scenes more often associated with the football terraces, a mob of fans routinely interrupted Stepanek when he was serving, beating incessantly on the courtside hoardings.

Tennis, like golf, carries an unwritten, but generally well-observed etiquette for both players and fans. It is one of the few sports, for example, in which tradition dictates silence during play.
But the further one gets from the traditional centre of the game - Europe - the more these traditions seem to have eroded.

While the All-England Club and Roland Garros are considered tame and proper, Flushing Meadows (site of the US Open) and Melbourne Park are becoming increasingly raucous. And the Davis Cup - played in countries across the globe - is the most boisterous of them all.

Most followers of the game have welcomed this development. Fans at the Australian and US Opens have brought much needed youth and passion to the sport.

But there's a breaking point. And if the Goldstein and Baghdatis incidents are anything to go by, the Australian Open had better watch its faults.