Tennis

French Open Protester Must Force Security Upgrades at Tennis Events

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 09:  A protester runs onto court with a lit flare before the start of a game in the Men's Singles final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and David Ferrer of Spain during day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 9, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2013

After watching a protester charge the court with a lit flare during the men’s final of the 2013 French Open at Roland Garros, it has become abundantly clear that security regulations across the sport must be upgraded.

It was during the second set of the final between eventual champion Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer that the protester made his way through the boxes at courtside, jumped the flower bed along the court and landed on the clay a few feet from Nadal, according to BBC Sport:

It was a terrifying incident that rattled the players and stunned the entire crowd at the Court Philippe Chatrier, and this will undoubtedly bring major changes to the sport and the way it is viewed live.

Because a protester could come from anywhere in the arena, each facility must start doing a better job of keeping the people sitting in the bleachers away from the boxes along the court.   

Not all venues are built like Roland Garros, but with the same basic seating structure around the courts, investing in Plexiglas dividers—like the National Hockey League boards—between sections would be a wise investment.

Plexiglas dividers would be harder for outdoor venues dealing with weather, but even a net like Major League Baseball uses behind the backstop should be a consideration.

Making upgrades to the actual venues is a must, but the changes shouldn’t stop there.

This particular protester carried a flare that could have easily caused serious physical harm or property damage to innocent bystanders. The fact that he even made it into the building is also something that must be addressed.

People should have the right to bring things like umbrellas, food and drinks into an event, but if a more thorough search of people is necessary to make the situation safe for everyone, that’s what fans must become accustomed to at tennis events.

What happened Sunday opened up a wound that will never heal.

This incident exposed the unpredictability of live events and brought back horrible memories from the sport of tennis in the past. On April 30, 1993, tennis legend Monica Seles was stabbed by a man on the court while she sat in between points.

It was at that moment that the innocence of the sport was lost, and the security was upgraded considerably each year since. While there have been major upgrades along the line, there has to be more done to ensure the safety of the players and the fans.

Security at Roland Garros handled the incident on Sunday well, but it must get better to ensure the safety of the players, officials and fans in attendance.

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