Fighting fans mar first day of Australian Open

AFP , MELBOURNE

Tue, Jan 16, 2007 - Page 20

Police ejected about 150 spectators from the Australian Open yesterday after an ugly brawl broke out between Serbian and Croatian fans inside the ground.

Fans wearing the national colors of the bitter Balkan rivals clashed in the Rod Laver Arena after taunting and hurling insults at each other.

Witnesses said they kicked and punched each other, setting upon their rivals with flagpoles, bottles and chairs before dozens of police and security staff put a stop to the melee.

Police then ejected the combatants after confiscating their tickets.

"They were mostly Serbians ejected as they were upsetting the Croatians," Victoria state police spokeswoman Katherine Jess said.

Earlier, a group of fans gathered in central Melbourne and lit flares as they made their way to the stadium.

"It's bad because you go to the tennis and you go to watch and then it ends up in an actual brawl, it's just ridiculous," a Croatian fan called Marina said. "You go to cheer on your actual player, not to go and fight."