Iga Swiatek offers a lesson in tennis and education at Roland Garros as Goffin warns: ‘Soon there will be smoke bombs and hooligans’.

Iga Swiatek
Iga Świątek en su victoria sobre Naomi Osaka
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PARIS – ‘A match worthy of a final,’ said Chris Evert once Poland’s Iga Swiatek’s triumph over Japan’s Naomi Osaka was a done deal. And a match to remember, because Swiatek gave the Parisian crowd a double lesson: in tennis and politeness.

What Swiatek decided to do after the 7-6 (7-1), 1-7 and 7-5 over Osaka, who came to have a match point, has not many precedents. It was bold, it was brave. And, most of all, it was timely. Just ask Belgian David Goffin, the man who got spat on with chewing gum in the middle of a match.

‘I want to say one thing, sorry for bringing this up,’ Iga Swiatek said, still shaken, as she took the microphone in the stadium after the victory. The crowd listened in silence.

‘I have a lot of respect for you guys, I know we are basically playing for you, this is entertainment, and we also make money because of you. But sometimes under a lot of pressure, when you guys shout something during the point or just before you return the serve, it’s really, really hard to focus. I usually don’t bring this up because…’.

The applause interrupted Iga Swiatek, the crowd already getting the message without the world number one needing to complete it.

‘I want to be that kind of player who is “in the zone” and well focused, but guys, this is serious for us, we fight all our lives to get better and better, and sometimes it’s hard to accept… these things are big, there’s a lot of money to be made here, and a few points can change everything. So if you can please support us between the points, but not during, that would be fantastic.’

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Swiatek, on her way to her third consecutive title – her fourth in five years – left the stadium to a standing ovation. Later in the press conference, she elaborated further on the matter.

‘You addressed the issue of the fans in the on-court interview with a lot of respect. Just to clarify, was it related to the half-volley in the third set, or does it happen more often? Does it happen more often at the French Open than at other tournaments?’ a journalist asked her.

Iga Swiatek nodded. ‘Yes, I was very frustrated when I missed that half-volley. Yes, someone shouted when the ball was flying towards me, but I knew I had to concentrate more and not let that distract me, but sometimes it’s difficult, because in tennis we are used to the stadium being silent during the point.’

‘It happened to me more times, especially before the returns, and that’s why I wanted to talk about it, because if it had happened to me once, I would have let it go. I know the French public is enthusiastic… Yes, but for now in tennis we have some rules according to which there must be more silence among the public, and I just wanted to point out that it’s not easy for us… But I know that the French public can be a bit tough. I don’t know if it was a good decision or not, but I hope they treat me like a human being and we can work on it.

That the French public is tough is well known. A year ago, American Taylor Fritz drew a thunderous boo when he shushed the crowd at the Suzanne Leglen after his victory over Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech.

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‘I love you guys!’ said Fritz with an altered gesture and tons of irony as the booing made it impossible to hear anything.

This year, things got worse. Goffin, who beat Frenchman Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 6-3 in the fifth set on Tuesday, knows that well.

Belgium’s David Goffin during his debut match at Roland Garros 2024.

Court 14 became hell for the Belgian. ‘They said not very nice words to me, someone also spat a piece of chewing gum at me when I got up from the chair. It got a bit like a football match,’ Goffin told Belgian television RTBF.

Goffin left a warning: ‘It’s been heated and disrespectful for one or two years, and some players are complaining. A lot of things have already happened, like during the Taylor Fritz match last year. Some people go too far. Soon there are going to be smoke bombs, hooligans and fights in the stands. It’s starting to become ridiculous.

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