June 24, 2021

“We’re going to pay, we’re going to stay”: the audience at Philippe-Chatrier court didn’t really want to leave the central before the end of the ball

It is 10:30 p.m., Wednesday 9 June, and a voice rises on the Philippe-Chatrier court, which sees Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini for a place in the semi-finals. She asks spectators to make their arrangements to vacate the premises before the curfew. “We will pay (the fine), we will stay!“, the audience sings in unison in response. The few people who dare to get up from their seats are booed, perceived as “traitors”.

But fifteen minutes later, the court is still full and strident whistles accompany the second intervention of the speaker. Who does not obtain more success. At 10.54 p.m. (fourth set, 3-2), the game was stopped and the players returned to the locker rooms. The message is clear: as long as the spectators do not evacuate the stadium, the match will not resume. The federation, the government and Amazon (the only broadcaster in France of nightly sessions) then take for their rank: “Pay it back!”, “Macron, resignation!”, “It’s a shame, thank you Amazon ! “, shout angry spectators.

There are then three schools: those who go out without flinching, those who flinch but still obey, and then … the others, a little more upbeat. Discussions are sometimes tough with security personnel. A man in the blue shirt, who has come with his children, is particularly upset and does not hesitate to let it be known. “Paying 500 balls to watch two-thirds of the game is a shame!”, he gets carried away, without moving from his seat.

At the same time, similar scenes are repeated all over the stands. Some even use incongruous strategies not to leave the court and hide between the seats. Without much success. A total of 21 minutes passed before play could resume. In a usual silence, which we had almost ended up forgetting.

It was therefore necessary to wait for the ninth “night session” to finally hear the center court vibrate after 8 pm. Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini played their quarter-final in a crazy atmosphere. The public very quickly chose their camp, that of the Italian. “Matteo, Matteo, Matteo “,” Te amo Matteo” [“Je t’aime Matteo” en français], can we hear ringing at each point inscribed by the world number 9.

At 2-2 in the fourth set, Berrettini scored the best point of the game on Djokovic’s serve and came back to 30-30. The public totally takes its side and gives voice to congratulate its darling of the evening. Then follow whistles on the service of the Serbian. The referee is forced to ask the fans to show respect. A few points earlier, a pro-Berrettini had sounded a ringtone – that of the video game Zelda – to try to destabilize the world No. 1.

The pro-Djokovic, in large inferiority, therefore struggled to make themselves heard in the face of such fervor. But the tension on the court was not enough to disturb the boss of the men’s circuit, still as sure of himself and determined to join Rafael Nadal in the semi-final, for the long-awaited shock of this fortnight.

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