French Open fans unhappy as COVID curfew imposed at 11 p.m.

Novak Djokovic’s French Open quarterfinal against Matteo Berrettini was delayed for about 22 minutes while thousands of spectators were cleared out because of an 11 p.m. coronavirus curfew

Pandemic-related restrictions were loosened to allow 5,000 inside on Court Philippe-Chatrier rather than the 1,000 for the previous matches, and it was quite an atmosphere until the rule was imposed.

“The conditions were strange with the fans here and then the atmosphere was a bit different (afterward),” Djokovic said after winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 to reach his 40th Grand Slam semifinal. “You have to find a different motivation because the energy from the fans is special.”

Some disappointed fans jeered and even sang “We’ve paid, we’ll stay” as they refused to leave when supposed to at 10:45 p.m.

Shortly before 10:55 p.m., both players packed their bags and walked off down the tunnel while fans shouted out in frustration. The top-ranked Djokovic was up 2-1 in sets and leading 3-2 in the fourth set when play was halted.

Within a few minutes the main stadium was almost completely empty, although two angry fans continued to argue they had a right to stay until security officials finally ushered them away at 11:10 p.m.

Moments later, both players came back out to warm up amid a cathedral-like silence as the sound of ball hitting racket replaced the sometimes raucous atmosphere. Because after being away from live sports for so long, an appreciative crowd was in the mood for entertainment.

Their unbridled enthusiasm turned sour at 10:30 p.m. when chair umpire James Keothavong was roundly jeered for reminding the fans they had to leave at 10:45 p.m.

Most did not, but at just after 11:15 p.m. the players had resumed their match.

The top-ranked Djokovic experienced something similar during the Australian Open in February, when fans needed to be ushered out of his victory over Taylor Fritz because of coronavirus restrictions there.

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