REWIND: When Heckling French Open Crowd Reduced Martina Hingis To Tears

Published 05/23/2021, 4:30 AM EDT
PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 09: A general view inside Court Philippe Chatrier during the ladies singles final between Sloane Stephens of The United States and Simona Halep of Romania during day fourteen of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros on June 9, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)


Never had a tennis player felt so lonely in a tennis court than a packed French Open crowd made her feel in 1999.

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And the fact that the disgraceful incident, which will forever stay in the annals as one of the most forgettable moments in the sport, went down in Paris, the City of Love where it’s hard to feel loveless, made it all the more unbelievable and repulsive. Also, the incident put a lifelong stain on the French crowd that no amount of apology can ever obliterate.

The occasion was the women’s singles final at Roland-Garros, featuring Martina Hingis, who, at age 18, was the World No.1 at the time, and Steffi Graf, the German stalwart who was on the last legs of a glorious career and hadn’t added to her 21 Grand Slam titles in three years.

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However, the tournament finale, which was to be a testimonial for the symbolic passing of the torch from one generation to the next, plunged into infamy after the crowd resorted to boorishness, the kind not seen in the famed arena neither before nor since.

Martina Hingis was playing Steffi Graf in the 1999 French Open final

With the match not going the way they had desired, the largely partisan crowd, which was cheering Graf on to win her fourth career title at Roland-Garros, descended into hooting, name-calling, and even throwing insults at the Swiss.

Things got ugly when Hingis, having won the opening set 6-4 and leading 2-0 in the second, challenged a line call.

As the chair umpire stepped across to the point where the ball had seemingly left its mark and stayed with the call, the Swiss, in violation of tournament rules, crossed over to her opponent’s half and pointed to another mark which she claimed should stand.

Martina Hingis was subjected to hooting and insults from the crowd

That riled the crowd up even more, as it let loose of a fresh wave of insults at Hingis, throwing her off focus.

Having had enough of it, the Swiss complained to the chair umpire to which she received more hooting and whistling from the crowd.

Even Graf wasn’t amused and was picked up telling the umpire, “Are we playing tennis or just talking a little bit?”

But the crowd didn’t let up and, with the constant hooting and insults ringing in her ears, Hingis packed up and left the Centre court in tears.

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She was even seen crying on her mother’s shoulder as she consoled her.

The match did resume later but Hingis was clearly off her game and eventually went down in three sets to give Graf her 22nd career Grand Slam title.

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DIVE DEEPER

Why Has the French Open 2021 Been Postponed by One Week?

4 months ago

It won’t be wrong to surmise that the Swiss was robbed of a championship trophy at the French Open by a scandalously unhinged and unruly crowd.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

1101 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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