Greek fans on day three of the Australian Open.
Greek fans on day three of the Australian Open.

Banned Greek tennis fans slam 'racist' decision

UP TO 20 Greek supporters ejected from the Australian Open for disruptive behaviour on Wednesday have vowed they will be back and accused officials of a racist approach.

The group of fans were supporting Greece's No.1 women's player, Maria Sakkari, in a late-afternoon match on Court 8 against Japanese Nao Hibino.

Victoria Police said in a statement the fans failed to follow the directions from officials and the chair umpire.

"About 6.05pm this evening a group of 15-20 males were evicted from the tennis for disruptive behaviour," the statement read

"The group had received numerous warnings during a match on Court 8 from a match referee, security and police.

"After the match the group were asked to leave and did so peacefully."

 

Sakkari, who won the match in straight sets, said she felt the support had been positive and that she would miss the fans if they were banned from attending her future matches.

"It is going to be different playing here without them (if banned) for sure," Sakkari said.

"I really like it and it makes me play even better and get more pumped  -  that's why it's one of my preferred places to play.

"So I really hope that it's not going to happen."

Sakkari felt the fans during her match on Wednesday had been more than fair.

"They respected the opponent at the maximum. They were not disrespectful, they had stopped when they had to stop. They were not say yelling on her double faults or mistakes," she said.

"The only thing that they were yelling was 'break, break, break' but even Australians do it, Israelis do it, everyone does it.

"I think they were great.

"They were very respectful to the opponent, they stopped when they had to stop.

"They were not disrespectful. They were supporting me in a really nice way - I loved it.

"That's my favourite atmosphere to play with, so I'm really glad that I played with them by my side."

 

Greek fans show their support towards Maria Sakkari of Greece. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images.
Greek fans show their support towards Maria Sakkari of Greece. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images.

Fans claimed they had done nothing wrong.

Melbourne man Armani Nikkas told the Herald Sun the group had simply been cheering.

"My eyes just cannot believe what I'm seeing," he said.

"Today we were supporting our country, the Greeks, and we were chanting and people kicked us out for no reason.

"I feel like it's a racist approach.

"After the game, we won, and then we celebrated how we do, but people think it's taking it too far.

"We're just celebrating, supporting our people."

Outside the venue, the group could be heard chanting they would be back on Friday.

The furore comes after Greece's top male player, Stefanos Tsitsipas, welcomed the positive support on Monday, but said fans needed to be more respectful of the opposition and stop acting like football supporters.

He said the active supporters "crossed the line" at times.

"They can do what they're doing, but probably with more respect," he said.

"I really like they come and support me because that gives me a lot of positives in my game. I don't really know why they want to go the extra mile some of the time," he said.

"From their side, they should be a little bit more respectful to the opponents. That's all. Nothing else. They can do what they're doing, but probably with more respect."

Rafael Nadal's comments at this month's ATP Cup final in Sydney echoed this sentiment, with the Spaniard saying some fans didn't understand the different atmosphere in tennis.

"They think it's (like) football and stuff, and the atmosphere in tennis is different. The respect for the players should be there and at some points, I think the respect from a small part of the crowd (wasn't) there," Nadal said.


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