Coco Gauff is through to her first US Open final, but only after her last-four match against Karolina Muchova was suspended for more than 45 minutes when a protester glued his feet to the floor in the stands.
American teenager Gauff’s 6-4 7-5 victory was overshadowed by a small group of spectators wearing T-shirts bearing the words ‘end fossil fuels’ who began shouting, forcing play to be stopped.
Gauff and Czech 10th seed Muchova initially stayed on the court for about 10 minutes while security tried to deal with the situation.
The Arthur Ashe crowd at one point began chanting “kick them out” with the protesters apparently being difficult to shift despite being surrounded by around 12 police officers.
It soon became apparent that while three of the protesters had been removed, a fourth had glued his bare feet to the concrete.
“Are they like talking to them or are they going to remove them?” Gauff asked chair umpire Alison Hughes and tournament referee Jake Garner.
NYPD are in the process of resolving a fan disturbance. Play will resume as soon as possible.
Thank you for your patience.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 8, 2023
She then spoke to her coach, Brad Gilbert, saying “they say they are negotiating, like it’s a hostage situation. What should I do?”
Gilbert was then heard to shout at Garner: “This is a joke, Jake.”
Both players eventually left the court with Gauff leading 6-4 1-0. They returned at 8.50pm when the third protester had finally been removed, and after a warm-up, play resumed 50 minutes after the last point.
Speaking to ESPN, tournament director Stacey Allaster said: “As we witnessed we had environment protesters up in the loge area.
“There were three. Two were removed. They quietly left. When security got there they found one of the protesters had physically glued himself, his bare feet, to the cement floor.”
A statement from the USTA read: “Following the first game of the second set in the Gauff-Muchova match, play was halted due to a protest conducted by four spectators.
“Three of the four protesters were escorted out of the stadium without further incident. The fourth protester affixed their bare feet to the floor of the seating bowl.
“Due to the nature of this action, NYPD and medical personnel were needed in order to safely remove this individual from the stadium.
“The four protesters were taken into NYPD custody. In total, 49 minutes elapsed before play resumed.”
It is not the first time a major tennis tournament has been disrupted by protesters.
At Wimbledon this year Just Stop Oil activists caused two matches, one involving Britain’s Katie Boulter, to be suspended after running onto the court throwing jigsaw pieces and confetti.
Last year’s French Open semi-final between Casper Ruud and Marin Cilic also had to be halted after a woman tied herself to the net.
Both players at least seemed to be able to put the incident behind them when the match resumed.
Muchova had treatment on what appeared to be an abdominal injury during the stoppage.
The Czech 10th seed saved a match point on the Gauff serve and five more on her own in the next game.
But the 19-year-old converted at the sixth attempt when Muchova went long to reach her second grand slam final.
“Thank you guys this is crazy,” she told the crowd. “I grew up watching this tournament so it means a lot to be in the final.”