(May 25, 2015) — From world leaders to celebrities of all degrees of fame, taking a selfie with fans has become an accepted part of life.
But tennis great Roger Federer felt an unacceptable line was crossed Sunday when a spectator invaded center court at the French Open to try to get a snap with the 17-time grand slam winner.
The boy — reportedly a teenager — got close enough to Federer to put his arms around his shoulders as he was walking off the playing arena.
It raised fears over security in a city where just a few months ago terrorists killed 11 people in the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The incident also brought back memories of the 1993 attack on former women’s No. 1 Monica Seles, who quit playing for two years after being stabbed during a tournament in Germany.
“I’m not happy about it — obviously not for one second am I happy about it,” Federer told reporters after winning his opening match on day one at Roland Garros.
“It happened yesterday in the practice, too. It’s just a kid, but then three more kids came.
“And today on center court where you would think this is a place where nobody can come on, he just wanders on and nothing happens.”
For Federer, it brought back memories of 2009 when a fan in Swiss colors tried to put a flag on his head during the French Open final against Robin Soderling — which he won for his only grand slam triumph on clay.
“I definitely think something needs to happen quickly,” said the 33-year-old.
“Normally I only speak on behalf of myself, but in this situation I think I can speak on behalf of all the players, that where you do your job, that’s where you want to feel safe.
“And so clearly I’m not happy about it. But nothing happened, so I’m relieved. But clearly it wasn’t a nice situation to be in.”
Federer said tournament director Gilbert Ysern had apologized to him, but the Swiss was still concerned that no proper action will be taken to tighten security.
“First, it should never happen,” Federer said. “I’m not just speaking about Roland Garros, but now that we are playing Roland Garros, there are so many players, so many fans, so much focus by the media on Roland Garros, that people should react much more quickly.
“That’s true as well for the other tournaments. I think it’s essential. I think that in terms of safety, they should be well-educated. They should know what they do.
“It’s not just being there, standing there on the courts wearing a nice tie and suit. It’s not that funny and I hope there is going to be a reaction from the tournament.
“They apologized, and I must say that I appreciated this, but I’d like to see what’s going to happen next.”
There was also a court invasion at Roland Garros before the 2013 final between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, when a protester ran on with a flare before being wrestled to the ground by security.
Ysern held a press conference after Sunday’s incident, and insisted security had been tightened after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
“It’s not the end of the world but it was embarrassing, and we are collectively responsible as organizers,” said Ysern, who acknowledged that Federer was “p*ssed off” and “has good grounds for being unhappy.”
“We made a mistake and it won’t happen again,” he added. “There is no reason for us to change security procedures. It was just a lack of judgment.
“The court is clearly forbidden for (fans) to go on, and, well, they have to respect that. Of course, contrary to what happened this afternoon, we will enforce that rule more severely from today on and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Ysern also had to apologize for a story published on the tournament’s official website about the private life of Federer’s compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka, who has split up with his wife.
It was removed after the 2014 Australian Open champion complained — he later told reporters it was a “completely stupid article.”
Federer had made a confident start to his French Open campaign before the boy — who Ysern said has been banned from the rest of the tournament — came on to the Phillippe Chatrier court and persistently tried to get a photo.
He triumphed 6-3 6-3 6-4 against Alejandro Falla, who made it into the main draw as a lucky loser from qualifying.
The Colombian famously took a 2-0 lead against Federer in the first round at Wimbledon in 2010 before losing in five sets, but this time the second seed comfortably prevailed to set up a clash with Spain’s Marcel Granollers in what is his 62nd consecutive grand slam tournament appearance.
There were no major upsets on the opening day of the tennis season’s second grand slam.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Wawrinka were the only other top-10 men in action, and both progressed in straight sets.
Croatia’s No. 25 Ivo Karlovic was the only male seed to fall, losing to veteran Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
In the women’s draw, world No. 3 Simon Halep beat Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina 7-5 6-4. Last year’s runner-up will next face veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni — who beat the Romanian at last year’s U.S. Open.
The 33-year-old, whose first Roland Garros appearance was back in 1999, defeated young American Lauren Davis in three sets.
Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, lost the opening set against Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova before battling back to earn a second-round match against Japan’s Misaki Doi.