“Show some respect” was the simple message that Daniil Medvedev expressed to the crowd in attendance at Rod Laver Arena in an on-court interview last year during his second-round match against Nick Kyrgios. Put all of his antics and controversial comments to one side, and he raises an issue that has grappled with the sport for some time now. The list of examples is endless. From screaming imitations of Sabalenka’s grunt against Barty to the “Siuuu” chants made to sound like “booo,” to the heckling abuse that Naomi Osaka has received, it’s reached a point where enough is enough. An ugly incident at the French Open involving American 9th seed Taylor Fritz and French hometown hero Arthur Rinderknech sparked the debate around poor crowd behaviour once more. In the thick of an enthralling battle during the night session on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the pro-French spectators switched their energy from supporting their own to making Fritz’s life hell by hurling constant boos and jeers during points. To his credit, Fritz managed to stay incredibly composed and prevailed in four sets. As soon as he won, raw emotion and the heat of the moment started to take over as the American made a shooshing gesture to the crowd, riling them up even more. Can you honestly blame him though? The on-court interview with 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli heightened the embarrassment further, as the booing grew louder to the point where both Bartoli and Fritz were standing on the court waiting for silence for what seemed like an eternity. This is not to suggest that there should be complete silence in the stands at all times and follow Wimbledon’s standard of passionless energy. Atmosphere makes any sport colourful and most players will admit that they thrive in that sort of environment. However, tennis is unique in that there’s a very fine line between fans staying silent in between points and making their voices heard. That line has been crossed for far too long now. Australians, Americans, along with the French are all known to lean a little towards the rowdy side. While some instances are just a bit of fun, a lack of balance is notable when it comes to the lack of respect shown for the competitors trying to compete at their highest level. During Barty’s Australian Open final against Danielle Collins, the partisan crowd made life so difficult for the American that she walked up to the chair umpire and demanded for silence during her service motion. “After she missed her first serve, someone in the crowd said, ‘That missed two meters.’ “The crowd are well and truly getting into it. There was someone heckling Collins a little bit,” Channel 9 commentator Casey Dellacqua said. Is booing Djokovic throughout a match for no reason necessary? Are the cheers after double faults mature? No one is arguing that you shouldn’t support your favourite player, but go about it with some common courtesy for the player on the opposite side of the net. Again, it’s that word respect. Some will argue that people who pay their hard-earned money to buy a ticket are entitled to support in whichever manner they choose. That remains true to an extent, but they also have a duty of responsibility to support in a manner that is humble and in line with good integrity. The game deserves that. Highlighting all of the issues involving negative crowd behaviour is the easy part. The question that many want an answer to is how can it be stopped. Obviously, when the entire stadium is acting disrespectfully, it’s virtually impossible to stamp it out. Escorting the culprits out of the venue is nowhere near a sustainable solution. Opinions will differ, but this situation is crying out for the top players in both the ATP and WTA to voice their disapproval and condemn the unwanted actions of the crowd. Why do those in attendance bother to buy a ticket? Because most likely they love the game and want to watch their favourite players compete who they idolise and who are role model-type figures. The inability to talk or move out of your seat makes tennis so eccentric compared to other sports regarding what spectators can and can’t do. Ultimately there will always be a few idiots and that’s just all part of the game. It just seems as though bad habits are creeping into the crowd to the point where it’s becoming normalised and accepted. A continuation of pitiful antics could make fans tired of it all and may turn them away from the sport altogether. Facing the possibility of losing tennis enthusiasts puts it all into perspective.
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