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Police use pepper spray to calm crowd trouble at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Police used pepper spray on
fans at the Australian Open on Tuesday when crowd trouble hit
the Grand Slam event for the second year running.

Three people were evicted and interviewed for assaulting
police, failing to obey lawful direction and indecent language.

In a statement, Victoria Police said they resorted to the
spray because they feared for their safety after fans became
aggressive toward them, having failed to cut out what they
described as "offensive chanting."

The fracas happened during the first-round match involving
last year's runner-up Fernando Gonzalez of Chile and
Konstantinos Economidis, a Greek qualifier.

At around 8:20 p.m. local time, Gonzalez had been
leading 6-4, 1-2 when the match was stopped for around 10 minutes
and the fans were removed from the stadium by police.

Eyewitnesses said trouble started when police stepped in to
deal with a group of around 40 fans who had been singing loudly
between points in the match on Margaret Court Arena.

"It was upsetting, I've never seen anything like it in my
life at a tennis match," Stephen Butterick, a BBC Radio producer
said.

"The whole atmosphere had been like a Davis Cup match
crossed with a football match.

"The Chileans outnumbered them by about 8-1 but the Greek
guys were in one corner of the court, chanting, making loads of
noise. We were watching Gonzalez, and suddenly, I don't know
why, a policeman appeared.

"He tried to get someone and that stage there were two
policemen. The other lads got up and started pushing and shoving
and he [the policeman] sprayed some kind of mace spray.

"That set them off again and then, there weren't enough
policemen, never more than three or four.

"The policemen to me looked a bit rattled -- two guys
against maybe 70-80, that's not good.

"Then there was a second macing, and I'd say about a third
of the Greek fans disappeared. One of the Greek lads who'd been
sprayed then vomited -- I have never seen anything like it at a
tennis match in my life."

The match resumed, but stopped again just one point later
after more disruption in the crowd, before eventually the
players were able to continue.

The trouble came a year after Croatian and Serbian fans
fought and chanted insults at each other at the tournament,
resulting in 150 people being ejected from the venue by police
and security officials.

Tournament directors had promised that the event would have
a "zero-tolerance" attitude for any trouble, helped by more CCTV
coverage and a "significant" police presence.

Gonzalez said the chanting had made it like a Davis Cup tie
and had added to the atmosphere but Economidis was left upset by
events.

"I am really sad that this has taken place on a tennis
court," Economidis told reporters.

"It's really something that nobody wants. It was a great
atmosphere. It was full of people who were cheering and looked
like they were enjoying the tennis and it was a really nice
atmosphere until this moment. I am really unhappy."