Safety & Security

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Selfie-Crazed Federer Fan Raises Questions About Sports Event Security

25 May, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Overzealous fan: 1, Security: 0

An incident in which a spectator rushed the court at the French Open in order to take a selfie with an obviously unwilling Roger Federer has brought into sharper focus the need for heightened security at all sports events.

The fact that the previous day, several children had interrupted Federer’s practice session in a similar fashion, heightened the concern of officials, who couldn’t help being uncomfortably reminded of the 1993 stabbing of Monica Seles by a fan who similarly rushed the court. Seles, who was at the top of her game when the assault occurred, did return to the sport, but never played at her peak form again.

“I am not happy about it. Obviously, (not) for one second (am I) happy about it,” Federer stated in an Associated Press interview following the Roland Garros incident which occurred in the first round..

''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 went to the Roland Garros locker room to speak to Federer and spoke separately to the player’s wife. Ysern termed the event ''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 members who 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. 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.''

Federer would most likely dispute that statement. He did note 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, in a weird turn of events, tried to put a hat on him.

In a jab at the security staff following this most recent incident, Federer said 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.''

The fact that the fan (who was, after a few minutes, nudged off court by security) was carrying only a cell phone did not help matters; onlookers and reporters noted that the intruder could have been carrying a weapon of any sort, and still managed to gain access to the court and to Federer.

Whether or not this incident will result in additional security at future tournaments remains to be seen. However, it also brings to light the sense of entitlement some spectators have concerning smartphones, tablets and other devices, and the problems they create. While Wimbledon has banned ‘selfie sticks,’ it has not yet outlawed cell phones themselves. On the other hand, Augusta National has a permanent prohibition on cell phones and will ban for life any spectators seen trying to carry them into events such as the Masters.

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