Tennis: Crowd behaves badly as prankster halts play at Australian Open

A spectator is escorted out of the Hisense Arena after yelling during the men's second round match between Nick Kyrgios and Viktor Troicki at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, on Jan 17, 2018.
A spectator is escorted out of the Hisense Arena after yelling during the men's second round match between Nick Kyrgios and Viktor Troicki at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, on Jan 17, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE (AFP) - A man who began heckling near the players' boxes during a Nick Kyrgios Australian Open match was an Internet prankster, it emerged Thursday (Jan 18), as concern mounted about rowdy crowds at the tournament.

Kyrgios was about to serve early in the match on Wednesday when the man began shouting loudly while filming himself with a phone before he was kicked out of the Hisense Arena by security staff.

It turns out he was a self-described "YouTube star" who spent the day planning the prank.

In a video posted soon after he was thrown out, he expanded on the incident.

"You guys might have just seen me on TV - I've just been evicted. I think that was the greatest thing I've done in my life," he said. "Hope you guys enjoyed that."

A professional pest, his YouTube channel features other videos including "Airhorn in the library" and "Waxing my armpits in public".

Kyrgios, who has a notorious on-court temperament, dealt with the incident calmly.

"The guy in the crowd was crazy. I didn't really know what was going on," he said afterwards.

Told it was prankster, he said: "Good on him. Little claim to fame. Let him have it."

It was the latest match at the opening Grand Slam of the year to be marred by crowd incidents.

On Tuesday, rising Belarusian star Aryna Sabalenka's screeching got to the point where spectators started mocking her, earning a rebuke from the umpire.

And the crowd watching Australian John Millman play Bosnian Damir Dzumhur was more like a football game than a tennis match.

Millman hit out at the noisy fans who "crossed the line".

"I like the atmosphere when two sets of the crowd are going against each other, it's just when it crosses the line when you're in the middle of a rally and you're literally about to make contact and they make sound on purpose," he said.

"It happened a fair bit on serve, too. It doesn't necessarily get under your skin but it's probably just a little bit unsporting I'd say."