Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic launched a foul-mouthed tirade at French Open fans who he claimed were sabotaging his Roland Garros campaign.
Tipsarevic lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the third round in a tense confrontation on Court Seven.
The 28 year old faced down two spectators who he said talked and shouted out his opponent’s name every time he tossed the ball to serve.
“Are you ... stupid?,” screamed Tipsarevic before chair umpire Jake Garner came onto the court to intervene.
Both fans were eventually ejected from the stadium after Tipsarevic had made repeated requests early in the second set to have them dealt with.
“There were two guys in the corner constantly taunting and laughing, and you could really see they didn’t come to watch any tennis but just to pose,” said Tipsarevic.
“I just snapped, because you could really see they didn’t really care, what the score was or even who was playing. They just wanted to look nice and be at the French Open. They had no respect to the players in terms of being quiet or whatever.
“So at one point I was getting ready to serve at like, I think 30-15 on my serve, and one of the guys just started screaming, calling somebody to the stands.”
Tipsarevic admitted he was wrong to swear at the fans, an outburst that could lead to a fine.
“There’s no excuse for my reaction I should have talked to the referee first, but the referee told him to be quiet. Then one of the guys kept provoking me, screaming, ‘Come on, Youzhny’ before I tossed my balls.
“The referee had them removed. I think basically the problem was that I used the F word, and that was not pretty. But on the other hand, I just snapped. That’s it. It happens to everyone.”
Incidents of crowd trouble at tennis tournaments are rare although 45 people were evicted from the Australian Open on the first three days of the 2010 tournament in Melbourne.
In 2008, police at the event resorted to using pepper spray to quell unruly fans.
Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal held off a brave yet sporadic challenge from Italian Fabio Fognini 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 to book his place in the fourth round.
Third seed Nadal suffered the occasional wobble but, for the first time this year, did not drop a set as he set up a meeting with Japanese 13th seed Kei Nishikori on his 27th birthday on Monday.
The Spaniard, who struggled in his first two rounds, was bothered by Fognini’s clever shots early on but once he got the measure of the 27th seed the contest was effectively over.
Nadal, who has 11 grand-slam titles to his name, sealed the win after two hours 45 minutes when Fognini sent a backhand long.
"I think he is a fantastic player," Nadal said of his opponent in a courtside interview.
“Winning the first set is always important especially after losing it in the first matches.”
Nadal’s ability to play the important points as if they were a matter of life and death made the difference against Fognini. The Italian entered Court Philippe Chatrier with a swagger but the smile was wiped off his face eventually.
Fognini looked the more aggressive player at the start and broke for 3-2 after sending Nadal left and right, finishing off a long rally with a routine smash.
His sudden backhand accelerations caused the Spaniard problems but Nadal broke back for 4-4 when his opponent netted an easy forehand.
He had three set points in the 10th game, only for Fognini to coolly see them off - one with a stunning forehand winner.
The Italian broke in the following game when Nadal sent a forehand long but the muscular Spaniard broke back to force a tiebreak.
Nadal, facing the prospect of losing the opening set in the first three rounds at Roland Garros for the first time, won an epic, lung-burning point after Fognini was caught off guard by his opponent’s back spin to open up a 5-4 lead in the decider.
Nadal then had the upper hand, to Fognini’s frustration.
In the second game of the second set, after netting a forehand passing shot, the Italian tried to volley his racket with his foot, to the crowd’s amusement.
At change of ends after the third game, Fognini had his thumb and forefinger treated for blisters and could not resist jokingly showing the trainer his middle finger, with a big smile on his face.
Nadal, who is looking to become the first man to win the same grand-slam title eight times, meant business however, and closed the affair after resisting a late fightback by Fognini.
Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the last 16 of the French Open in 75 years when he defeated Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-1 in their third-round match.
Emulating the feat of Fumiteru Nakano in 1938, 13th seeded Nishikori will next attempt to match his march into the 2012 Australian Open quarter-finals.
The Florida-based Asian star broke Paire twice in the first set, while dropping his own serve once, but he then quickly found himself a break down in the second against the Frenchman who has enjoyed a strong claycourt season.
With both men struggling to hold serve, Nishikori battled back to 2-2 and there was a further exchange of breaks to get to 4-4.
Paire was left furious when he was hit with a penalty point for coaching at set point up on the Nishikori serve at 5-4, but he drew level in the match by easily taking the ensuing tie-break.
But it was Nishikori who looked the stronger as they got deep into the third set, with Paire struggling to stay the pace. The Japanese player took that 6-4 and he raced away with the fourth against a visibly tiring Paire to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the third time at the age of 23.
Nadal will be next up for Nishikori should the defending champion defeat Italy's Fabio Fognini in a third round tie scheduled for later in the day and he has failed to beat the Spaniard in their four contests to date.
Meanwhile, the No 7 seed Richard Gasquet continued his smooth progress through the draw with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Nikolay Davydenko. Tommy Haas clinched victory over John Isner in an epic battle, claiming a 7-5, 7-6, 4-6, 6-7, 10-8 win on his 13th match point. Stanislas Wawrinka defeated Jerzy Janowicz 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-3.
No 1 seed Novak Djokovic wrapped up the action last night with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 stroll past Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
In the women's draw, third-seed Victoria Azarenka overcame 10 double faults and 31 unforced errors to defeat France's Alize Cornet 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 and book a place in the last 16.
The 23-year-old Australian Open champion reeled off the last six games of the match and goes on to face either French 13th seed Marion Bartoli or Italy's 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone for a quarter-final spot.
"Alize is a terrific girl. It was a difficult match and she played really well, but playing on the centre court really motivates me," said Azarenka.
In a match which featured 15 breaks of serve, it was the 23-year-old Frenchwoman, fresh from a third career title in Strasbourg on the eve of Roland Garros, who took the first set, courtesy of a big forehand off a second serve.
Cornet took a tumble in the opening game of the second set and grimaced in pain again, feeling her upper right thigh in the eighth game as Azarenka went on to level the tie.
By that stage, Azarenka, who has never got beyond the quarter-finals in Paris, had already sent down 23 unforced errors and eight double faults. Cornet was ahead 1-0 with a break in the decider before Azarenka pulled away, winning six games on the bounce to take victory after 2 hours, 22 minutes.
Maria Sharapova overcame eight double-faults, an incorrect call and a second-set deficit to beat Zheng Jie 6-1, 7-5 in the third round at the French Open.
Sharapova completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open last year.
An incorrect call cost Sharapova in the second set. Facing a break point at 30-40, she hit a second serve that was called long to make it 4-1. The umpire climbed off his chair to check the mark and confirmed the call.
Sharapova briefly argued in vain, contending the umpire looked at the wrong mark. A TV replay showed her serve had hit the line.
She shook off the setback, sweeping the next three games for 4-all, and broke in the final game.
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