From respectful to rowdy: How tennis crowds are getting more unruly than EVER with drunk fans, booing of stars and abusive behaviour taking over the court… while one supporter even imitated a bee to distract a player!

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Tennis crowds were shamed again on Tuesday when Alexander Zverev’s late-night US Open round of 16 match against Jannik Sinner was marred by a racial slur made against the German No 12 seed.

Zverev and Sinner were embroiled in an enthralling fourth-round tie in the early hours of the morning in New York, when the former made a complaint to the umpire about a comment he heard in the seconds before a point.

‘He just said the most famous Hitler phrase there is. It is unacceptable,’ Hamburg-born Zverev told British umpire James Keothavong after hearing a slur from the crowd.

Following the game, Zverev told a reporter that the supposed fan had been singing the ‘anthem of Hitler’ – the banned first verse of the original German National anthem. 

‘He started singing the anthem of Hitler that was back in the day. It was “Deutschland über alles” and it was a bit too much,’ the Hamburg-native said. 

Tennis crowds were shamed on Tuesday when Alexander Zverev's US Open round of 16 match against Jannik Sinner was marred by a racial slur made against the German No 12 seed

Tennis crowds were shamed on Tuesday when Alexander Zverev’s US Open round of 16 match against Jannik Sinner was marred by a racial slur made against the German No 12 seed

The spectator was escorted out by security after barracking the German player in New York

The spectator was escorted out by security after barracking the German player in New York

While unacceptable slurs towards stars are rare, the Zverev incident was the latest example of tennis crowds become more involved in issues with players than ever, with increasingly rowdy behaviour causing problems.

Last week, Daniil Medvedev continued his feisty relationship with the US Open as he thanked supporters who reserved their cheers for breaks in play while mocking one crowd member who proved particularly vocal during his third round victory over Sebastian Baez. 

‘Thanks a lot to all the guys who don’t shout between first and second serve,’ he said post-game. ‘You guys are great.

‘But I think there is one guy, I don’t know if he has a girlfriend or a wife. But I don’t know how she’s going to sleep because he’s so pumped up that in the night he’s going to be saying “VAMO! VAMO! VAMO! VAMO!” Like non-stop. I feel sorry for him.’

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The exchange follows another incident involving the 27-year-old and supporters at Flushing Meadows after the No 3 seed took on a couple of spectators during his win over Christopher O’Connell in the previous round.

Daniil Medvedev was furious with a set of fans at the US Open, accusing them of being 'stupid'

Daniil Medvedev was furious with a set of fans at the US Open, accusing them of being ‘stupid’

One female fan (left) tried to appease the angry Russian by blowing him a kiss from her seat

One female fan (left) tried to appease the angry Russian by blowing him a kiss from her seat

2019 champion has had several run ins with supporters over the years at Flushing Meadows

2019 champion has had several run ins with supporters over the years at Flushing Meadows

A tetchy Medvedev appeared to have been angered by a couple of fans who were walking to their seats as he lined up a serve and shouted: ‘Can you shut up? Are you stupid or what?’

One of the female fans blew Medvedev a kiss in response as his fury led to boos on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

These clashes have become more and more common and are affecting tennis stars from all over the globe.

One of the more bizarre incidents came last month when a spectator was forced to apologise to Stefanos Tsitsipas after the Greek star confronted her for imitating a bee during his match at the Cincinnati Masters.

The world number four was preparing to serve when he heard an irritating buzzing sound near him.

He then comically attempted to swat away what he thought was a bee, before composing himself to serve once again.

Tsitsipas underwent his own investigations and let his complaints be known to the umpire, before he went over to the spectator who then profusely apologised for her actions.

One of the more bizarre incidents came last month when a spectator was forced to apologise to Stefanos Tsitsipas after she imitated a bee during his match at the Cincinnati Masters

One of the more bizarre incidents came last month when a spectator was forced to apologise to Stefanos Tsitsipas after she imitated a bee during his match at the Cincinnati Masters

The lady responsible for the noise was confronted by an infuriated and frustrated Tsitsipas

The lady responsible for the noise was confronted by an infuriated and frustrated Tsitsipas 

Elsewhere, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has created much controversy among tennis crowds with several top players from both countries, along with those from Belarus – who are supporting Russia in the conflict – on the receiving end of boos and abuse over the past year.

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For example, the now-standard non-handshake between Russian or Belarusian and Ukrainian players has regularly caused a reaction among supporters.

Ukrainian star Marta Kostyuk was booed when she refused to shake Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka’s hand at the French Open, while Russian Daria Kasatkina was booed off court in Paris when she avoided her handshake with Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.

Wimbledon spectators are well-known for their good behaviour, but they were unable to avoid controversy this year when Belarusian Victoria Azarenka was booed off by the crowd after losing to Svitolina when the aforementioned handshake didn’t take place.

Azarenka later hit out at those in the stands on Court One, while Svitolina called for action by tennis authorities to deal with the increasingly ugly scenarios that are following games. 

The Belarusian said: ‘What should I have done? Stayed and waited? She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision.’

Svitolina – who was booed after not shaking hands with Sabalenka following a quarter-final defeat at the French Open the previous month – added: ‘I feel like each player that loses, and there is no handshake, is getting booed.

‘I think the tennis organisations have to come out with a statement that there will be no handshake between Russian/Belarusian and Ukrainian players.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has caused significant controversy in tennis with stars from the two nations and Belarus often booed if they don't shake hands with the opponent (pictured: Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka (top) waits at the net after beating Ukraine's Elina Svitolina)

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has caused significant controversy in tennis with stars from the two nations and Belarus often booed if they don’t shake hands with the opponent (pictured: Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka (top) waits at the net after beating Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina)

Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk was booed after not shaking Sabalenka's hand at the French Open

Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk was booed after not shaking Sabalenka’s hand at the French Open 

‘I don’t know if it’s maybe unclear for people. I already said multiple times that until Russian troops are out of Ukraine and we take back our territories, I’m not going to shake hands.

‘I have (made a) clear statement. I don’t know how I can be more clear.’

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Wimbledon hasn’t been averse to avoiding more rowdy spectators over the years with Nick Kyrgios’s infamous rant towards a supposed ‘drunk’ individual one of the stories of the 2022 Wimbledon final. 

During his tense battle with Djokovic in a clash he ultimately lost in four sets, Kyrgios accused a drunk fan of interrupting him during a crucial service game. 

‘She’s distracting me when I’m serving in a Wimbledon final,’ he fumed at umpire Renauld Lichtenstein.

‘There’s no other bigger occasion, you didn’t believe me and then she did it again. It nearly cost me the game.

‘Why is she still here? She’s drunk out of her mind and speaking to me in the middle of a game. What’s acceptable?’

When Lichtenstein said ‘nothing is acceptable’, to which Kyrgios replied, ‘OK, kick her out. I know exactly which one it is – the one who looks like she has had 700 drinks, bro.’ 

Nick Kyrgios launched an infamous rant during the 2022 Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic when he accused a fan who was distracting him of having had 'about 700 drinks'

Nick Kyrgios launched an infamous rant during the 2022 Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic when he accused a fan who was distracting him of having had ‘about 700 drinks’

The fan was Ania Palus (above) and she launched legal action against Kyrgios for defamation

The fan was Ania Palus (above) and she launched legal action against Kyrgios for defamation

The woman Kyrgios lashed out at was later revealed as Ania Palus, 32. She said she only had one Pimms and one glass of rose during the match, adding that the heat got to her before she was temporarily ejected from Centre Court. 

Palus ended up taking legal action against the Australian for defamation. 

Ultimately, the past 12 months has seen the usually respectful tennis crowds become increasingly rowdy and engage with players on a variety of issues.

From extremely serious topics such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, to other more trivial issues including distraction tactics, drunk supporters and abusive behaviour, there is the growing rise in crowd trouble in tennis and it is perhaps something that the sport’s authorities must address sooner rather than later.

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