The US Open semi-final between Coco Gauff and Karolína Muchová was interrupted by climate protesters early in the second set, with one of the protesters glueing their feet to the floor of the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Gauff was a set up and holding serve to open the second when a disturbance broke out in the upper reaches of the stadium and shouting disrupted play.
As the players looked into the stands, security flooded into the section around the disturbance. More than a dozen law enforcement officers arrived on the scene and three protesters were removed by New York police department officers.
Another, who had been handcuffed by police but was affixed to the floor, caused further delay to the resumption of the match as medics attempted to extricate the protester safely.
Forty-nine minutes after the last point was played, the remaining activist was finally removed and the players, who had retreated to the dressing rooms during the disruption, returned to court.
Chants of “Kick them out! Kick them out!” had rung out across Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Photographs of the scene showed three protesters wearing shirts with the slogan “End Fossil Fuels”.
The US Tennis Association said a total of four protesters had been removed and taken into NYPD custody.
“Three of the four protesters were escorted out of the stadium without further incident,” a USTA statement read. “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 tournament director, Stacey Allaster, confirmed the protester had glued their bare feet to the concrete beneath the seat.
“We know in these events, environmental protestors use the platform,” she said. “Security will be resuming along with NYPD to see what else we can do to prevent it in the future.”
Gauff, who went on to win the match 6-4, 7-5 and reach her first US open final, said she held no animosity to the protesters, although she did think their timing could have been better.
“It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it,” Gauff said. “Obviously I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning up 6-4 1-0, and I wanted the momentum to keep going.
“But hey, if that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.”
The climate protest group Extinction Rebellion claimed responsibility for the disruption.
“The climate is already more disruptive than any activists can possibly be,” said Miles Grant, a spokesperson for the group. “Just look at the US Open and other big tennis events – year after year, the average temperatures have been rising, making it hotter and more dangerous for the players and spectators.
“At some point, there will be fewer outdoor sporting events due to excessive heat.”
This year’s tournament has been hampered by a late summer heatwave in New York, leading world No 3 Daniil Medvedev to claim that a “player is going to die” in the oppressive conditions.
Just Stop Oil protesters interrupted play at Wimbledon in July, releasing orange ticker-tape mixed with jigsaw puzzle pieces during matches.