The Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open witnessed an unusual disruption during the semifinal match between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova. Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion took center stage, their message loud and clear: “No tennis on a dead planet.” While the protest temporarily halted the game, Gauff ultimately prevailed, winning 6-4, 7-5.
The interruption occurred when Gauff was leading 1-0 in the second set, causing a delay of approximately 50 minutes. Security personnel and a team of police officers confronted the activists, three of whom were wearing shirts bearing the slogan “End Fossil Fuels.” The fourth activist, in a particularly attention-grabbing move, had glued his bare feet to the concrete floor, requiring additional time and medical personnel to safely remove him. All four activists were subsequently taken into police custody.
For Gauff, who hails from Florida and is just 19 years old, the disruption was an unexpected challenge during a critical match.
“I always speak about preaching about what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it. Obviously, I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning up 6-4, 1-0, and I wanted the momentum to keep going,” said Gauff. Despite the interruption to her momentum, she handled the situation with composure and ultimately secured her victory.
This wasn’t the first instance of climate activism impacting sporting events. Wimbledon faced interruptions in July when environmental activists disrupted two matches by jumping onto Court 18 and scattering orange confetti.
Extinction Rebellion, the group behind the protest, has voiced concerns about the connection between major sports events and environmental issues. The average high temperatures during such tournaments have been steadily rising, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses for both players and spectators. Tennis star Daniil Medvedev even expressed his concerns, warning that “one player (is) gonna die” due to excessive heat during tournaments.
The disruption at the US Open is part of Extinction Rebellion’s efforts to demand immediate action to combat climate change. They insist that governments declare a climate and ecological emergency.
Despite the interruption, Gauff’s victory over Muchova was a significant milestone for the young tennis sensation. Both players were competing in their first US Open semifinal.
In the other women’s semifinal, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus faced Madison Keys of the United States. Sabalenka clinched a victory, winning 0-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (10-5), setting up a final showdown against Gauff in what promises to be an exciting clash.