Coco Gauff said she couldn’t “really get upset” with the climate protestors who caused a 45-minute delay in the middle of her US Open semifinal against Karolína Muchová on Thursday.
Gauff, who went on to win the match 6-4 7-5 and reach her second grand slam final, was leading at the start of the second set when the disruption took place.
In a statement, the US Open called it a “fan-related” incident on Arthur Ashe Stadium and said one attendee “affixed himself to the floor and due to the nature of this action, medical professionals, NYPD and security personnel were needed in order to resolve the issue and remove the fan from the stands.”
As the attendee – who was shouting about “environmental issues,” according to the ESPN broadcast – was removed, fans inside the stadium cheered.
Four protesters were involved, and three of them “were escorted out of the stadium without further incident,” according to a statement from the US Tennis Association.
“Throughout history, moments like this are definitely defining moments,” Gauff later told reporters. “I believe in climate change. I don’t really know exactly what they were protesting. I know it was about the environment. I 100% believe in that.
“I think there are things we can do better. I know the tournaments are doing things to do better for the environment. Would I prefer it not happening in my match? 100%, yeah. I’m not gonna sit here and lie. But it is what it is.”
Gauff and Muchová both left the court during the delay as the protestors were escorted out of the stadium.
Climate protestors also disrupted last year’s French Open and matches earlier this year at Wimbledon, where they sprinkled orange confetti and jigsaw puzzle pieces on the grass playing surface.
“I had a feeling it was going to happen this tournament,” said Gauff. “It happened in the French Open, it happened in Wimbledon. So, you know, following the trend, it was definitely going to happen here.
She added: “I wasn’t pissed at the protesters. I know the stadium was because it just interrupted entertainment. I always speak about preaching what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it.
“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.”
Gauff, the youngest woman to reach the US Open final since Serena Williams in 1999, will next face Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka as she bids to win her first grand slam title.