Climate protesters stop play in Rome before Keys sets up Swiatek meeting

Climate protesters stop play in Rome before Keys sets up Swiatek meeting

Madison Keys joked that she had been tempted to tackle ­protesters as a number of matches at the ­Italian Open were interrupted by the climate crisis protest group, Last Generation, on Monday.

During Keys’s 6-2, 6-1 win against Sorana Cirstea, play was stopped for nearly an hour after protesters threw confetti on to the clay courts and tried to glue themselves to the stands. “Honestly, as soon as I saw them come over the barrier, my first thought was: ‘Should I go tackle them?’” said Keys, laughing.

“I stopped myself and then the chair [umpire] started yelling at me to go sit down. Unfortunately it’s starting to become a bit of a common thing that’s happening. At that point, I figured it was probably going to be a little bit of a delay and just tried to get off the court and regroup.”

At almost exactly the same time, protesters also stopped play on Court Pietrangeli, where a doubles match was taking place. On Grandstand, the second biggest court in Rome, protesters were stopped before they could enter the court. Asked about the increasing frequency of ­protests in tennis, Keys said: “It’s not the greatest feeling when you’re on the court. Your first thought is your safety. I think maybe banning cement and glue from bags would be a start.”

Keys will face Iga Swiatek, the top seed, in a rematch of the Madrid Open semi-finals after Swiatek edged past an impressive Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3. Naomi Osaka’s promising run came to an end in the fourth round as she was defeated 6-2, 6-4 by Zheng Qinwen, the seventh seed and Australian Open finalist. Zheng will next face Coco Gauff, the third seed, who outlasted Paula Badosa 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.

Aryna Sabalenka saved three match points on her way to winning a thriller against Elina Svitolina 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7). The No 2 seed was treated for a back injury early in the final set but completed her comeback win. She will next face the former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who also came from behind to beat Rebecca Sramkova 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Cameron Norrie in action in Rome.View image in fullscreen

Despite fighting hard in the second set against one of the most in-form players of the clay court season so far, Cameron Norrie was outclassed 6-2, 7-6 (1) in the third round by ­Stefanos Tsitsipas, the sixth seed. “I’m feeling well, I’m feeling good,” Norrie said. “I’m just disappointed to lose a match like that because I feel like I have the level, I have the belief, I have everything to beat these players but it’s just not happening for me.”

After the highs of 2022 and early 2023, where Norrie rose to a career‑high ranking of No 8, he is desperate to take another step forward in his career. Now ranked No 30, he has not lost against a lower-ranked opponent throughout the clay season but it has been slim pickings against the elite, many of whom are able to overpower and outmanoeuvre him.

“They’re doing things better than me,” Norrie said. “More accurate with the forehand, serving better than me. I think I’m ­returning very well but, yeah, just a bit more accurate with their forehand and playing the bigger points better than me.”

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Australia’s Alex de Minaur will play Tsitsipas in the last 16 after beating Félix Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4. Andrey Rublev, who beat Auger-Aliassime in the Madrid final, suffered a surprise 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat to the French qualifier Alexandre Muller.

Reigning champion Daniil Medvedev survived a scare to see off qualifier Hamad Medjedovic in three sets, winning 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-5. Tommy Paul will play Medvedev in the last 16 after the American saw off Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 6-4, 6-3. Holger Rune crashed out after Argentina’s Sebastian Baez fought back to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Andy Murray, meanwhile, has opted surprisingly to make a significant equipment change late in his career. Murray, who has played with Head rackets throughout his entire career, will be testing a Yonex racket when he returns to ­competition this week at an ATP Challenger in Bordeaux.