The bad behaviour of booing amongst fans at the Australian Open

Now that the dust has settled on another Australian Open and the tennis circus has left town, I thought a little reflection, well actually my two cents worth, on the topic of crowd behaviour and booing is worth exploring.

The Australian Open has the nickname, ‘The Happy Slam’ amongst the world’s elite tennis players. Perhaps after Melbourne’s heat wave it will garner the new nickname, ‘The Oh my God it’s hot slam’.

In some respects the heat may well have played a part in the crankiness and unsportsmanship behaviour of the Melbourne crowd.

My own house did not drop below 30 degrees Celsius for the week and most days the thermostat recorded 37 degrees Celsius. Yes, it was hot.

Sleep depravation is a form of torture and Melbourne was alight with cantankerous, over tired citizens.

This may go some way to explaining the booing that occurred during the Tomic v Nadal, first round match and maybe even the Nadal v Wawrinka final, but it is not an acceptable out clause for the embarrassing behaviour of the Melbourne Park fans.

At the heart of this is trying to figure out just why people feel the need to boo in the first place.

If this booing occurred due to the crowd’s perceptions of unsportsman like behaviour, then the old saying, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’, must surely be applicable here.

There can be no greater example of poor behaviour and lack of sportsmanship than booing.

In regards to Tomic’s first round match against Nadal, we can put forward the argument that Bernie has done little to endear to himself to Australian audiences, and as a result, perhaps his previous bad behaviour has caught up with him.

Tomic receiving treatment during the first round of the Aus Open 2014
Tomic receiving treatment during the first round of the Aus Open 2014

Bernie does after all have the unfortunate moniker, ‘Tomic the Tank Engine’. This delightful little nickname was the result of him practically laying down when he knew he was beaten against Andy Roddick during the US Open in 2012.

Never-the-less, in the aftermath of his first round retirement, it has transpired that he was genuinely injured.

This though raises questions as to whether he should have pulled out of the tournament prior to the match.

After his dismal showing in the final of the Sydney International, where Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro didn’t even have time to work up a sweat in his crushing victory over the young Queenslander in the final, it perhaps was clear then that not all was well with Bernie.

With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to suggest Bernie began the year not quite 100%.

Either way, Bernie’s past and speculation that he should not even have attempted to play the Australian Open are still no excuse for the poor behaviour of the Melbourne Crowd.

Further to this, the argument that he shouldn’t be booed because he is an Australian, as expressed by some quarters of the Australian media, is almost as bad an attitude as those who booed him.

Booing anyone is not acceptable and the suggestion that some nationalities can be booed, whilst others are immune, is an example of xenophobia at its worst.

I wonder which countries get this immunity and who decides it?

As if in some strange full circle, Rafael Nadal found himself once again involved in a match marred by booing, this time in the final against Stanislas Wawrinka.

The circumstances surrounding the booing in the final also involved an injury, this time to Rafa.

Rafa getting treatment in the final of the Aus Open 2014
Rafa getting treatment in the final of the Aus Open 2014

Perhaps tennis audiences have been spoilt over the years, especially Australian tennis audiences who have become accustomed to the never say die, fighting spirit of Lleyton Hewitt and they wanted to see the same fighting spirit in the final.

But, hey, hang on a minute, when it comes to bravely playing to the end, the only other player to match Hewitt in these stakes is the Spanish champion, Rafael Nadal.

Clearly, the crowd in Rod Laver Arena last Sunday night are not true tennis fans.

Any informed tennis fan would have known instantly there was no way Nadal would pull the pin and retire.

This brings up the question of just who is in attendance at these final events

The cost of the tickets are prohibitive for most, so do we lay the blame on an audience of corporates, who have no or little appreciation of the sporting event they are attending?

This may be a bit rich and bit of a stretch, but it’s worth considering.

Do we then suggest that the only group able to afford the outlandish admission price are the dreaded CUBS (Cashed Up Bogans)?

Or perhaps the real villain on Sunday night was the epic five setter between Nadal and Djokovich, two years ago?

Maybe the Melbourne crowd were venting their anger that they were clearly not going to be entertained in the same manner in 2014.

It’s interesting that the booing incidences both occurred during night sessions and the final, not during day sessions.

Perhaps day crowds are more relaxed during the day because they can find another match to drown their disappointment in.

Whatever the reasons for the booing that seems to have pervaded the Australian Open this year, let’s hope it hurries up and disappears.



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