Thursday night’s US Open semifinal match between Coco Goff and Karolina Muchova was delayed more than 40 minutes in the second set by three environmental protesters in the upper level of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The protest baffled fans, TV commentators and players alike as they tried to understand what the team was protesting and why the match was so late. When play was stopped, Goff led 6-4, 1-0, and both players left the court.
Several New York City police officers were seen in the upper level as stadium security tried to clear the protesters from the stadium.
“As we saw there were environmental protesters in the lodge area,” the tournament director, Stacey Alastair, told ESPN in an interview near the court late in the day. “When security got there, they found one of the protesters physically clinging to himself, bare feet, on the cement floor.”
After a roughly 38-minute delay, the New York City Police Department said in a post on what was previously known as Twitter at the US Open X that it was “working to clear up the fan confusion.”
“Play will resume as soon as possible,” the US Open said. “Thank you for your patience.”
Around 8:50 p.m., about 45 minutes late, the players returned to the court to warm up.
This is not the first time that environmental opposition has arisen at a sporting event. At Wimbledon in July, environmental protesters threw confetti onto grass courts during a match and stopped play.
Nicole Anderson, a nutritionist from Brooklyn, was seated in Section 114 of the Lodge level, 12 rows behind the protesters. At first, Anderson said he thought they were cheering loudly for Goff.
“We realized it was kind of counterintuitive,” Anderson said. “Then they won’t shut up.”
Anderson said climate issues were “definitely a problem,” but said competition was “not a very effective way to protest change.”
During the delay, Muchova ran down the hallway outside the locker room. Goff spoke with staff and checked social media. On the broadcast, Goff could be heard telling his coaches that security and police were “negotiating” with protesters “like it’s a hostage situation.”
At 8:55 p.m., the players resumed play, with Muchova losing her second set 1–0.
The winner between Goff and Muchova will play the winner of the other semifinal between Arina Sabalenka and Madison Keys, scheduled to be played at Ashe Stadium after the first leg.
Kurt Streeter And Matthew Buterman Contributed report.
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