Greek tennis champion Maria Sakkari on Wednesday threw her support behind Greek fans who were evicted from her match at the Australian Open for being too rowdy.
Victoria Police confirmed that a group of between 15 and 20 men were ejected from the tennis court for disruptive behavior. “The group had received numerous warnings during the match on Court 8 from the match referee, security and the police,” a police spokesperson said.
After being asked to leave, they eventually left the area peacefully, but some of them still labeled their treatment as “racist.”
Asked about the incident by reporters after winning her match against Japan’s Nao Hibino, the 24-year-old Sakkari was quick to defend her Greek fans, saying “They supported me in a very nice way.”
“They respected the opposition and stopped when it was necessary. It’s my favorite type of atmosphere to play in and I love having them by my side. All they said was ‘break, break, break’ but everyone does that. I’m fine with them, I think they’re great!” she added.
Sakkari also commented on the fact that there were certain ethnicity-related chants heard throughout the game referring to the dispute with North Macedonia — which she didn’t seem to have an issue with.
“They (the fans) are very patriotic, so they give a lot of significance to anything happening in Greece. I understand their sentiments, they feel a lot more Greek than even we do, it’s very nice. It’s not something illegal,” the player maintained .
On Monday, Stefanos Tsitsipas expressed his annoyance at the the degree of exuberance his supporters were displaying. “I really like that they come and support me because that gives me a lot of positives in my game. I don’t really know why they want to go the extra mile some of the time,” Tsitsipas stated.
“If I would be an opponent… I mean, I do understand he doesn’t understand what’s happening out there and what the chants are, but I think also, from their side, they should be a little bit more respectful to the opponents. That’s all. Nothing else,” the tennis phenom added.