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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 14:29 GMT
Crowd unrest mars Australian Open
Police try to calm the crowd at Melbourne Park
Police used pepper spray because they feared for their safety
The Australian Open was marred by crowd trouble for the second year running as police were forced to use pepper spray on a group of Greek supporters.

A match between Fernando Gonzalez and Greece's Konstantinos Economidis was halted for 10 minutes as police stepped in to stop "offensive chanting".

A statement from Victoria state police said they deployed pepper spray because they feared for their safety.

In 2007, 150 people were ejected after Croatian and Serbian fans clashed.

As a result, tournament directors had promised that the event would have a "zero-tolerance" attitude towards any trouble, helped by more CCTV coverage and a "significant" police presence.

However, trouble flared up again on Tuesday as Gonzalez took on Greek qualifier Economidis on the Margaret Court Arena.

I am really sad that this has taken place on a tennis court. It's really something that nobody wants

Konstantinos Economidis

Police said they intervened after several spectators complained about offensive chanting by a group of around 40 fans.

The instigators failed to stop despite being warned, so police moved in to eject three people.

"As police tried to remove one man, others in the crowd became aggressive and threatening towards them," said Victoria police.

"Fearing for their safety, the members have deployed spray to keep aggressive patrons at bay."

Three people were subsequently evicted and interviewed for assaulting police, failing to obey lawful direction and indecent language.

"It was upsetting, I've never seen anything like it in my life at a tennis match," said eyewitness Stephen Butterick - a BBC Radio producer.

"There weren't enough policemen, never more than three or four. The policemen to me looked a bit rattled - two guys against maybe 70-80, that's not good."

Economidis, who lost 6-4 7-6 6-1, said: "I am really sad that this has taken place on a tennis court.

"It's really something that nobody wants. It was a great atmosphere.

"It was full of people who were cheering and looked like they were enjoying the tennis and it was a really nice atmosphere until this moment. I am really unhappy."

SEE ALSO
Aussie Open day two quotes
15 Jan 08 |  Tennis
Aussie Open photos
15 Jan 08 |  Tennis
Australian Open order of play
12 Jan 08 |  Tennis
Tennis on the BBC
07 Jan 08 |  Tennis
Australian Open draw
11 Jan 08 |  Tennis


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