The 2022 Australian Open blew minds from start to finish. From Djokovic’s visa debacle to Barty’s watch choice or Nadal’s astonishing comeback, it was a feast of emotion – a lip smacking session that has been pored over to within an inch of its life by pundits, media, and social media users.
But if you were watching the men’s final at home (1.6 million metro viewers tuned in to watch, and ESPN said the broadcast “may be the most-watched” ESPN telecast ever in that time slot), there were a few seconds near a crucial break point that you probably missed. An interval which caused confusion and was deliberately cut from screens.
🚨 Streaker at the AO 🚨 #AusOpen
— Tyson Whelan (@tyson_whelan) January 30, 2022
That break? The one where there was a pitch invader. Though camera people deliberately shifted focus to avoid giving the intruder air time, photos have now emerged showing who the pitch invader was, and what they were trying to achieve.
According to Twitter user Tyson Whelan, whose profile indicates he is a journalist, the men’s final court invader was brandishing a sign which read “abolish refugee detention.”
Less talk about pickle juice, more coverage of this https://t.co/iudKYT5tN7
— baklava boy (@muh_hmd) January 30, 2022
Racquet Magazine’s Senior Editor Ben Rotherberg wrote in the heat of the moment (before knowing what the invader was protesting for): “Some bozo just jumped out of the stands onto the court (probably about three meters), got dragged out.”
He added: “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. Protesters during [The Australian Open] men’s finals are fairly common, but usually they don’t plummet without a plan like that.”
What was the protest about tv ignored it
— degtech (@Melb_Degtech) January 30, 2022
It has been reported that the protester looked to have injured themselves in the fall. While the incident occurred security rushed to surround Nadal and Medvedev, in case of further disruption.
There was no further disruption and the match continued. Nadal eventually completed a stunning comeback and won the tournament, making history in the process.
Many people were curious what the protest was about, while others said they thought interrupting a tennis final wasn’t the time to protest. In a similar vein, some applauded Channel 9 not for televising the protest, while others criticised their lack of coverage.
Don’t think they – or any network – actually show invaders in any live sports coverage
— Leonardo Puglisi (not Rupert Murdoch) (@Leo_Puglisi6) January 30, 2022
Others criticised those who were criticising the pitch invader.
after what happened to monica seles, it’s understandable
— olivia rodrigHO (@PopeJudasV) January 30, 2022
Yeah because a person holding a “free refugees” banner is probably about to stab somone.
— Richard P. LaRose (@RPLaRose) January 31, 2022
This “bozo” appears to be supporting the human rights of some of the most vulnerable and mistreated people on earth. I know your tennis match is very important though and am sorry it was interrupted for a few seconds. https://t.co/tWEkg5JPRW
— Edward Anderson (@edanderson101) January 30, 2022
This isn’t the first time protesters have jumped onto the court at the Australian Open. Two refugee activists were arrested for interrupting the second set of the Australian Open men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in 2015.