Federer critical of security at French Open
By Howard Fendrich for the Associated PressNews tennis
PARIS — Roger Federer was not amused.
As Federer finished an interview after his first-round French Open victory Sunday, an overzealous fan left his seat and approached the 17-time major champion right there on the main stadium court in search of the most modern of mementos — a cellphone selfie.
At first, Federer seemed startled. Then he looked uncomfortable, trying to brush away the unexpected guest, who appeared to be in his teens, before a guard led the spectator away. And in the end, Federer was angry at what he considered a serious lapse in security.
“I’m not happy about it. Obviously, not (for) one second (am I) happy about it,” Federer said, adding that something similar happened a day earlier, when several kids interrupted his practice session at Roland Garros. “Normally I only speak on behalf of myself, but in this situation, I think I can speak on behalf of all the players — that that’s where you do your job, that’s where you want to feel safe.”
Tournament director Gilbert Ysern headed to the locker room to offer a personal apology and also spoke to Federer’s wife, Mirka, in the players’ lounge. Ysern called it “embarrassing” and acknowledged Federer “has good grounds for being unhappy,” but chalked the whole thing up to “lack of judgment” on the part of the security staff that let the intruder get by.
“Honestly,” Ysern said at a news conference, “at this stage, there is no reason for us to change the security procedures.”
Ysern noted that tennis security was beefed up worldwide after then-No. 1 Monica Seles was stabbed in the back by someone who came out of the stands during a changeover at a tournament in Germany in 1993.
“Given what happened with Seles and … (that) we live in a civilization that has gone a bit mad, it’s clear that we absolutely owe it to the players to allow them to play on the court,” Ysern said. “Fortunately, our sport doesn’t have fences and barbed wire around the courts. There’s not that physical separation that isn’t very pleasant.”
It was, certainly as far as Federer was concerned, the most noteworthy development on Day 1 at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament. Like No. 2 Federer, who beat Colombia’s Alejandro Falla 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, most seeded players progressed without a hitch.
No. 5 Kei Nishikori and No. 8 Stan Wawrinka, who both exited in the first round last year, won in straight sets, as did No. 24 Ernests Gulbis, a 2014 semifinalist. The only seeded men gone were No. 25 Ivo Karlovic, beaten 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-4 by 2006 Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis, and No. 26 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, edged 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (1), 3-6, 6-3 by 56th-ranked Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach, California.
Two seeded women headed home, too: No. 25 Peng Shuai, a 2014 U.S. Open semifinalist, quit after being treated for a back injury, and No. 31 Caroline Garcia. Among the winners were 2014 finalist Simona Halep and 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic.
Against Falla five years ago at Wimbledon, Federer lost the opening two sets of a first-round match before coming back to win. So on Saturday night, Falla watched 15 minutes of highlights from that close call “to get inspired.”
Didn’t help Sunday against the 2009 French Open champion, because, as Falla explained, “When I played my best tennis, he also played really well.”
Yes, Federer tends to do that.
And so it was that the most unsettling part of Federer’s afternoon came moments after his match concluded. The too-close-for-comfort encounter began with the spectator putting an arm around Federer’s shoulder and holding up a phone to try to snap photos. Eventually, a guard pulled the kid away.
“It’s a risk for the players,” Falla said, “because anything can happen if a guy just can jump on the court.”
Federer pointed out that his 2009 final on the same court was interrupted when a man jumped over the photographer’s pit, went right up to the Swiss star and, oddly enough, tried to put a hat on him.
In a jab at the security staff, Federer said Sunday that being a guard is “not just being there, standing there on the courts, wearing a nice tie and suit. It’s not that funny.”
Gulbis, who beat Federer in the fourth round in Paris last year, did manage to put a humorous spin on Sunday’s episode.
If a person managed to get on court after one of his matches, Gulbis said, “I’m going to react. Maybe if somebody is big, I’m going to run. Maybe if (it’s) somebody smaller, I might stay.”
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