The Australian Open final between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev was cut short when a protester went up onto the court during a crucial point in the second set.
In an extraordinary display, the intruder leaped from the stands all the way onto the court, a three-meter drop, before falling down to the floor.
The person was holding a banner with the message ‘abolish refugee detention,’ an apparent reference to the hotels and conditions in which refugees are placed after entering Australia.
While the saga over his Visa status unfolded earlier this month, Novak Djokovic was placed in a hotel used by asylum seekers. This, in turn, focused attention on the refugees who were staying in the same facility, some of whom had been waiting for years to be moved out of detention and resettled.
The protester, who was dressed in a disposable face mask, black shorts, and a cap, landed on Rod Laver Arena while Nadal was serving with a break-point in the ninth game of the second set.
The players were forced to stop at some point, and the intruder was dragged along the floor and out of the stadium by a combination of police and stadium security.
“The person was holding a banner, but jumped off the ledge onto the court before anyone near me had a chance to see what it said,” said Ben Rothenberg, the editor of Racquet Magazine.
“Protesters during men’s finals are fairly common, but usually they don’t plummet without a plan like that.” The 2015 Australian Open final was also interrupted by a similar message.
The interruption had no effect on the match, with Nadal eventually surviving the breakpoint and holding serve before losing a marathon second-set tie-break.
Nadal, who turns 36 in June, was attempting to become the most prolific Grand Slam winner in men’s tennis history. He entered the final tied on 20 with his long-time rivals Djokovic and Roger Federer.