On the opening day of the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London, a protester entered the court and set his arm on fire during the match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman.
After Tsitsipas took the first set, the protester walked onto the court wearing a shirt that read “End UK Private Jets” in capital letters. After sitting inside the service box, he poured a liquid on his right arm and then set his arm on fire with a lighter.
“It came out of nowhere. I have no idea what it’s all about. I never had an incident like this happen on-court, so I hope he’s all right,” said Tsitsipas, who defeated Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1.
The protester eventually extinguished the fire by vigorously shaking his arm, but some of the liquid fell to the court and a small fire developed on the court surface, prompting a security guard to extinguish the flame with his jacket.
After being removed from the court, the protester was temporarily held by security guards in a hallway by the court entrance and he did not appear to have suffered any significant injuries. The protestor is believed to represent Sacrifice for Survival, a climate emergency protest initiative that previously saw its activists set themselves on fire each day with the aim of stopping flights between locations inside the United Kingdom.
The match was briefly paused after the protester’s departure, as the court surface was cleared and Tsitsipas spoke with the umpire, ensuring that the court was in sufficient shape before agreeing to resume.
“I wanted to proceed with that match without having any minor changes to the court, and I wanted to make sure it’s playable, especially that area,” said Tsitsipas.
“It also got in my way in my viewing kind of experience of the court, the way I saw the court later. There was a big mark over there, and I wanted it to be cleaned up in order for me to proceed the way I did before.”
Protests are not uncommon at high profile tennis matches, including at this year’s Australian Open final between Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal when protesters leapt onto Rod Laver Arena holding a banner that read “Abolish refugee detention”. At the French Open, an environmental protester attached herself to the net during the semi-final between Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic with wires and glue.
The Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-inspired team competition that pits Team Europe against Team World, has showcased numerous players arriving in the UK by private jet, including Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, during its pre-event promotions.