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Police act quickly, boot out feuding fans

TWO rival supporters were kicked out of the Australian Open yesterday for scuffling at a bar following a match between Croatia's Marin Cilic and Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.

Police moved in quickly to break up the fight and eject the two men as part of their zero-tolerance policy on trouble makers.

Two years ago, the Australian Open was marred by violent clashes between an estimated 150 Croatian and Serbian fans and last year, police used capsicum spray on a group of rowdy Greek supporters.

There was a heavy police presence at the match between Cilic and Tipsarevic but there was no repeat of the wild brawls in 2007 although the rivals fans did taunt each other with provocative chants.

The scuffle between the two men who were ejected happened after the match at one of the garden bars inside Melbourne Park.

"Both the Serbs and the Croats were a little bit incorrect singing songs that had nothing to do with the tennis but to do with the history we have between each other," said Tipsarevic, who lost the match 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Fans also traded chants in the match between Bosnian-born Amer Delic and France's Paul-Henri Mathieu.

Delic, representing the United States, said he realized he was the middleman in what he called "a circus" but had no control over the spectators, whose noise disturbed the last two sets and affected both players' concentration.

"I couldn't control any of that, though I was trying to," said Delic, who moved to America with his parents when he was 14. "I felt bad for Paul and I apologized to him right after."

The 26-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida, rallied from two sets down to beat No. 28 Mathieu 1-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 9-7 and advance to the third round. Mathieu complained that the fans were like noisy soccer fans and were disrespectful. Fans focused less on the match and more on each other, swapping slurs that Delic refused to translate.

Delic realizes the high potential for disaster between fans at his next match, in which he faces defending champion - and Serb - Novak Djokovic.

"I just hope the next match with Novak doesn't turn into a World War III," he said. "I'm going to try to tell my fans that we don't need to be embarrassing ourselves in front of the world. I'm hoping Novak says something to Serbian fans, also. Leave the politics aside. It's not my fault and it's not Novak's fault. We're out here playing tennis and we need to keep it that way."


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