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banner Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 05:55 GMT
Llodra gets the bird
Boutter raced to help the stricken bird
Boutter raced to help the stricken bird
Play was temporarily halted at the Australian Open on Thursday when a bird was killed by a tennis ball.

The bird, believed to be a house martin, came to a grisly end when he instinctively chased a moth across the Rod Laver Arena.

Sadly he flew straight into the path of a powerfully struck forehand by French doubles player Michael Llodra.

The force of the shot killed the bird instantly and he dropped like a stone to the court.

I didn't do it deliberately
Michael Llodra
Julien Boutter, who was partnering Arnaud Clement in what was already a tense semi-final against Llodra and Fabrice Santoro, was the first to respond.

He threw down his racquet and dashed over to where the bird lay, hoping for a miracle.

But he was too late, so he fell to his knees, crossed himself and delivered the last rites.

The other players joined in the impromptu funeral until a court official ended the ceremony and ushered the bereaved back to their respective sides of the net.

Llodra and Santoro then went on to seal a hard-fought 6-3 3-6 12-10 win to book a place in the final.

Afterwards Llodra said: "I didn't do it deliberately.

"But at least I saved the moth."

It is not the first time a bird has been killed in a sporting arena.

The gruesome footage of a bird "exploding" in a spring-training game between the San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks last year was shown on dinner-time news broadcasts around the world.

Stuffed sparrow

Arizona's Randy Johnson struck and killed a low-flying dove that had the misfortune of crossing in front of home plate at the same time as the 100mph ball.

American golfer Tom Kite was trailing by one stroke on the 71st hole of a tournament in Boston last year when he killed a bird with his tee shot.

But probably the most famous was the sparrow killed by a quick delivery by Jehangir Khan, of Cambridge University, to T.N. Pearce, playing for the Marylebone Cricket Club in July 1936.

The bird died instantly but his memory lives on because they stuffed him and put him on display in the museum at Lord's.

Links to more Australian Open stories are at the foot of the page.


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