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French Open: Quarters clash halted as video screen debris falls on fans

Paris: The French Open quarter-final between Kei Nishikori and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was held up on Tuesday when part of a giant video screen was blown off in high winds, crashing into spectators and leaving three injured.

Security guards cordon off  a section of the stands after a large piece of  metal paneling fell after being blown off during quarter-final between Kei Nishikori and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga yesterday. The mishap caused play to be held up and left at least one fan injured. Pic/AFP
Security guards cordon off a section of the stands after a large piece of metal paneling fell after being blown off during quarter-final between Kei Nishikori and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga yesterday. The mishap caused play to be held up and left at least one fan injured. Pic/AFP  

The incident happened late in the second set when a sheet of metal, attached to the giant screen and scoreboard, fell from high above the main Philippe Chatrier Court, crashing into railings before landing on the crowd. "A metal sheet covering the scoreboard came off and fell on spectators causing three minor injuries. The area was secured and the match restarted.

The spectators were able to return to the seats," the tournament organisers said in a statement. One man had been seen being led away holding his head and arm as the court was buffeted by gusts reaching speeds of up to 40 km/h. The match was suspended for around 30 minutes as fans were cleared away from the danger area. Tsonga was leading 5-2 in the second set at the time after taking the opener 6-1.

At least 12 rows of seats were then cleared and taped off beneath the area from where the debris fell. Photographs showed the piece of metal to be around six metres long with spikes on one side, suggesting it was used to keep pigeons away from the huge screen, one of two positioned at opposite corners of the 14,911-capacity arena.

High winds also caused problems for the players involved in the women's quarter-finals. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, had defeated Elina Svitolina in the match preceding the Tsonga-Nishikori clash. "It was very gusty. I tried to move more because that's what you have to do in windy conditions," said the Serb. On Suzanne Lenglen court, Lucie Safarova defeated Garbine Muguruza and said the conditions were some of the worst she has ever played in.

"It was pretty bad. I have played in winds, especially in Australia it can be very windy," said the 28-year-old Czech. "I have never experienced such a bad wind in Paris." Tuesday's incident which occurred around 1500GMT is the latest to embarrass organisers of this year's French Open at the historic Roland Garros stadium. On the opening day, there was a major security worry when a spectator leapt from the sidelines of the showpiece Philippe Chatrier arena to grab a 'selfie' with Roger Federer as the Swiss star left the court.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner had just completed a routine 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over Colombia's Alejandro Falla when he was shocked to see a young fan sprinting towards him. "I am not happy about it. Normally I only speak on behalf of myself, but in this situation I think I can speak on behalf of all the players, that that's where you do your job, that's where you want to feel safe," said Federer. In a match between Fabio Fognini and Benoit Paire on Court Seven, a fight even broke out between fans.

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