Australian Open organisers thank spectators who stopped pro-Palestine protest

Woman throws ‘Free Palestine’ leaflets on court during match; Alexander Zverev criticises security for slow reaction

Tennis Australia has thanked two spectators who helped respond to a pro-Palestine protester at the Australian Open during a match involving sixth seed Alexander Zverev, who criticised the tournament for the security team’s slow response and inconsistent approach.

The protest on Monday night marked the most significant interruption of a tournament that has largely proceeded without controversy.

After defeating Cameron Norrie to book his place in the quarter-finals, Zverev said the response by security staff should have been swifter.

“I understand they’re all doing their job, but I think when something like this happens, it shouldn’t be another fan dragging the other person out,” he said. “It should be the security guys that should be there quite quickly. It shouldn’t take them three, four minutes.”


Midway through the match, as Norrie struggled to hold serving down a break in the third set, a woman threw sheets of paper on to the court from the first row of Margaret Court Arena behind Zverev. Some of the pieces had “free Palestine” written on them.

One spectator stood and started wrestling the woman, to the cheers of the crowd. A second also assisted in walking the woman up the stairs.

A statement from Tennis Australia said: “Two patrons were active in notifying security and stopping the protester, and we appreciate their actions.”

Norrie said he never felt threatened. “It is what it is, those things happen nowadays,” he said. “I think there were a couple of fans that actually helped out.”

Zverev said it was “surprising” it took so long to respond to the incident given how tight security is at the tournament away from the court.

He recounted a situation where he was barred from entering the players’ gym because he didn’t have his accreditation, although he was coming from the players’ locker room.

“Something like this happens and it takes three, four minutes for somebody to show up,” he said. “I think that should be the opposite.”

The controversy is not the first to involve the German at the tournament.

Zverev – who has been elected to the ATP player council – faces a trial in May over allegations he physically abused ex-girlfriend Brenda Patea in 2020, which he denies.

On Monday night, the 26-year-old said he could empathise with the protester.

“There’s obviously a lot going on in the world and a lot of quite bad things happen, I understand some people are frustrated,” he said.

“Of course, a tennis match has nothing particularly to do with it. I also understand both sides there.”

Victoria Police said officers were told a small group of patrons had also thrown pamphlets on to nearby Kia Arena and scattered others at the entrance of Garden Square.

“Police detained a 35-year-old woman and a 36-year-old woman to obtain their details,” a police spokesperson said. “The duo were given a direction to leave the event. No offences were detected during the incident.”

Tennis Australia said people seeking to disrupt the event will be removed.