PARIS -- The French Open began two Sundays ago when anti-gay-marriage protests resulted in police clashes and tear gas at Les Invalides in Paris. The Open ended Sunday after an anti-gay-marriage protestor briefly disrupted the men's final between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.
During the second set, a man wearing a white Phantom of the Opera-style mask but no shirt jumped onto the court while holding a burning flare in his hand. Security guards quickly responded, grabbing him and slamming him to the ground. Several guards then hauled the Phantom of Roland Garros from the court.
"It was a very quick moment,'' Nadal said. "I felt a little bit scared at first because I didn't see what was going on. I just saw a guy with some fire and I got a little scared at the first second. But then I saw it was one of these things that nobody can prevent.
"I want to thank very much all the security guys. They did amazing work. They were very courageous what they did so I just want to say thank you very much to them.''
Nadal was serving, but Ferrer broke him to win the game. Nadal came back to win the set and the match, though.
"Strange things happen on the court,'' Ferrer said. "But, no, I didn't lost my focus.''
The incident occurred just minutes after two young men had been removed from the upper deck for shouting and displaying an anti-gay-marriage banner. The men were asked to quiet themselves several times before security guards escorted them away. After the man took the flare onto the court, security removed a second group who also had been shouting in the stands.
Tennis etiquette is such that just applauding a player during a serve will result in an admonishing call for silence, so storming the court with a flare is a major incident. But it's not the only such disruption. At the 2009 French Open, a man ran onto the court during Roger Federer's match against Robin Soderling.
Martina Navratilova, a prominent spokesperson for gay rights who also lived in France for a time, said last week that it is her understanding that the protestors are from outside the city and that most Parisians either support gay marriage or don't care either way.