The U.S. Open semifinal match on Thursday night between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova was delayed by more than 40 minutes early in the second set by three environmental protesters in the upper levels of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The protest confused fans, television commentators and the players themselves, who were trying to understand what the group was protesting and why the match had been delayed so long. When play stopped, Gauff was leading, 6-4, 1-0, and both players left the court.
As stadium security tried to remove the protesters from the stadium, several New York City police officers were seen in the upper level.
“As we witnessed we had environment protesters up in the loge area,” the tournament director, Stacey Allaster, told ESPN in an interview near the court late in the delay. “When security got there they found one of the protesters had physically glued himself, his bare feet, to the cement floor.”
About 38 minutes into the delay, the U.S. Open said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the New York City Police Department was “in the process of resolving a fan disturbance.”
“Play will resume as soon as possible,” the U.S. Open said. “Thank you for your patience.”
At about 8:50 p.m., about 45 minutes into the delay, the players returned to the court to warm up.
This was not the first instance of an environmental protest at a sporting event. At Wimbledon in July, environmental protesters halted play during a match by throwing confetti onto a grass court.
Nicole Andersen, a nutritionist from Brooklyn, was sitting about 12 rows behind the protesters the Section 114 of the loge level. Initially, Andersen said she thought they were cheering loudly for Gauff.
“Then we realized it was some kind of protest,” Andersen said. “Then they would not shut up and stop.”
Andersen said that climate issues are “certainly a problem,” but added that the protesters at the match may have chosen “not the most effective way to protest for change.”
During the delay, Muchova jogged in the hallways outside the locker room. Gauff talked with staff members and checked social media. On the broadcast, Gauff could be heard telling her coaches that security and police were “negotiating” with the protesters, “like it’s a hostage situation.”
By 8:55 p.m., the players resumed the match, with Muchova to serve down 1-0 in the second set.
The winner between Gauff and Muchova will play the winner of the other semifinal matchup, between Aryna Sabalenka and Madison Keys, who were scheduled to play in Ashe Stadium after the first match.
Kurt Streeter and Matthew Futterman contributed reporting.