Amer Delic has appealed to Melbourne’s Bosnian community to calm down and not turn his Australian Open clash with Serbian defending champion Novak Djokovic “into World War III.”
Delic, born in Sarajevo but now a US citizen, came from two sets down to beat Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 1-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 9-7 yesterday in front of a large crowd of cheering and chanting Bosnians.
The victory set up a third round clash with Djokovic.
It was the second match in a row that Delic had won in five sets and the second where the behavior of his Bosnian fans has been criticized, Mathieu even going so far as to say they were shaming the sport.
Security was called at one stage when a group of Serbian fans turned up and the two groups of supporters began taunting each other.
“They were chanting back and forth across the court and I couldn’t control that,” Delic said.
“I felt bad for Paul and I apologized to him right after it happened but it’s tough — obviously I like those fans, they’re getting me through those matches,” he said.
“Today was bad when the other side came across — I’m just hoping with Novak that it doesn’t turn into World War III,” Delic said.
“I’m going to try and tell my fans that we don’t need to be embarrassing ourselves in front of the world and I hope Novak says something to the Serbian fans also,” he said. “You know, leave the politics aside. It’s not my fault and it’s not Novak’s fault.”
Violence erupted on the opening day of the 2007 tournament when Serbian and Croatian fans, wearing the national colors of the bitter Balkan rivals, attacked each other.
Delic said he knew some of the Bosnian fans followed his Web site and he would make an appeal through that avenue, but he would also speak to some of the leaders of the Bosnian community in Melbourne.
“I will tell them to keep it a tennis match and nothing else,” he said.
Mathieu said the Delic supporters were giving the Australian Open and tennis a bad name, not because of the rivalry with other ethnic groups but because of their heavy drinking.
“I found the attitude of the spectators shameful,” he said.
“If they want to have a party, why don’t they go to a bar? In the fifth set I had to go to the toilet and I found bottles of vodka,” Mathieu said. “It’s a shame to have such spectators at the court and a shame for tennis — to be on vodka at one o’clock in the afternoon?”
Following Delic’s first round defeat of fellow countryman Taylor Dent, Dent’s father, former Australian Davis Cup player Phil Dent, went on Melbourne radio and attacked the supporters, saying they were disrespectful to his son.
“The facts are yesterday [Monday] that the kids who were there — 18, 19-year-old kids and supporting Delic which is fine — but they were allowed to heckle, to taunt, do lots of things,” Dent said.
“They were interrupting the serve ... they were chanting on the line calls, in the middle of points. Basically they were out of control,” he said.