A protester sets fire to a hand and part of a tennis court during the Laver Cup

A protester set fire to part of the court and his hand during a match at the Laver Cup tennis tournament on Friday, an hour before Roger Federer was due to play for the last time before his retirement.

The episode briefly delayed the action early in the second set as Stefanos Tsitsipas cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Team Europe’s Diego Schwartzman of Team World at the O2 Arena.

The activist, carrying a lighter and wearing a white T-shirt with a message about private jets, headed to the black court and sat near the net. Eventually, the security guards took the person away.

Laver Cup 2022 - Day One - O2 Arena
A protester was removed by stewards after setting fire to the pitch at London’s O2 Arena on the first day of the Laver Cup. Photo date: Friday 23.09.2022.

John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images


“It came out of nowhere… I’ve never had an incident like this on the court,” Tsitsipas, the 2021 French Open runner-up, said afterwards. “I hope he’s okay.”

Tsitsipas spoke to the chair umpire to make sure it was safe to continue the game and asked to clean up the mark left on the pitch.

The protester “has been arrested and the police are dealing with the situation,” Laver Cup organizers said in a statement.

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A protester storms the court as he appears to set his hand on fire during the singles match between Team Europe’s Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Team World’s Diego Schwartzman of Argentina at the 2022 Laver Cup at the O2 Arena on September 23, 2022 in London.

GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images


Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, was due to compete later on Friday, taking on long-time rival Rafael Nadal in doubles.

Federer, 41, has not played an official match at Wimbledon in July 2021 and is ended his playing career after several operations on the right knee.

There have been other incidents of high-profile tennis matches being interrupted in recent years, including in the 2009 final at Roland Garros when a man went up to Federer and tried to put his hat on his head.

This year’s French Open in June was interrupted by a protester wearing a T-shirt that read “We have 1,028 days left.” glue and kneeling on the field.