Australian Open party court leaves Arthur Rinderknech angry over drunk fans and loud music in loss to Pavel Kotov

The Australian Open’s highly-touted ‘party court’ is quickly proving a hit among fans – but not everyone is happy, with one player lashing out at a group of ‘drunk’ fans he claims verbally abused him during the first round on Sunday.

This year, the Australian Open debuted the ‘Courtside Bar’ alongside Court Six.

The Courtside Bar is a two-story structure with a stated capacity of 400, with bars on both levels and food also on offer.

And it’s nestled right up against the court, meaning an elite view of the action – or, as one French player found out, an opportunity to abuse players from close range.

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On Sunday afternoon, 28-year-old Arthur Rinderknech played out an incredibly dramatic five-set loss against Russian Pavel Kotov that lasted 4 hours and 42 minutes.

But as he fought to stave off a break in the first game of the deciding fifth set, Rinderknech made a clear ‘shush’ gesture while pointing towards a group of supporters seated in the bar.

Foxsports.com.au asked him about the heated moment after his defeat.

Rinderknech replied: “Some stupid – I won’t even say the country – guys that were drunk were shouting at me every time I was missing my first serve, and I don’t think that’s really correct.

“Only in the fifth (set). I don’t think that was really correct and the ref didn’t say anything about it; maybe once. But I don’t think it was really fair, so I told them nicely to stay quiet and not do this kind of thing, because I don’t think that’s respect.”

Rinderknech had plenty of support of his own, with a handful of exuberant fans – in the bleachers, not the bar – making the most noise.

The bar did contribute plenty to the atmosphere, however, with one young man in a French national team football jersey regularly leading chants of “Allez”, or “Let’s go Arthur, let’s go” – getting plenty of call-and-laps in response from both sides of the court.

Rinderknech continued: “I know I had some French fans also in the stands, but I think they were always really correct with my opponent, never did anything against him.

“The bench of just three or four guys next to the court, drinking alcohol probably for quite a long time, and just shouting at me every time I was missing a first serve, especially the game I got broken as well, the whole fifth set. It doesn’t matter about this, I’m used to it, I’m fine. I should have been able to handle it.

“But I don’t think it was really classy.”

Besides plentiful alcohol and food, the bar also had a DJ playing throughout the match on court. Combine that with the many patrons of the bar who were talking during the contest, and there was a constant rumble of background noise.

The DJ behind the decks on Sunday afternoon – Melbourne’s own Prequel ­– was wondering if players could hear his laid-back beats as they played. He asked foxsports.com.au: “Can they hear it?”

When that question was relayed to Rinderknech, he replied: “I mean, we’re playing in a nightclub! That’s okay. I thought it was only in the US Open we could play in a nightclub. It happened today for four (hours) – I don’t even know how long we played.

“It was just food, drinks, laughing, talking, music, different music. Everything was happening on the court!”

Not that he was complaining, to be clear.

“It’s okay, I mean I really like the court. It was nice atmosphere. It’s cool.

“I don’t know, maybe some other players would have been pissed about the way everything was going on on the right (bar) side. But for me it was fine, it was fine – except you had those three or four guys at the end I think was really unfair.”

Tournament Director Craig Tiley told foxsports.com.au in October: “I think the idea about the courtside bar is just it’s an elevated experience for our fans on all the courts.

“We’re gonna give this a go on outside court six and basically, what it is, we just wrapped the court with a two storey structure where fans can actually lean over, watch the tennis, sit down.

“(They can) enjoy a bit to eat, enjoy a drink and the feedback we get is that the fans want to get closer to it, so we bring them closer to it at the same time.

“As entertainment, I think it’d be a hit. I think it’d be very popular and will be something where everyone wants to go.

“You get to see a great view of the tennis. We do want to create an environment where the fans can get as close to the actual play as they possibly can. And we know we have the best environment anyway.”

The tournament director said in an official statement when the news was announced: “We expect this will quickly become known as the ‘party court’.”

And it was clear during the match that fans were enjoying the close-up experience at Court Six.

A couple of young men managed to poach a pair of the stools at the edge of the upper deck – the prime viewing spots in hot demand throughout the match.

“This is ridiculous,” one said. “Unbelievable view,” was the reply.

One father nearby had two young children raised onto either hip to get a view of the action. He exclaimed: “This is unreal!”

“This is definitely the place to be,” an excited young woman said to a group of her friends on the lower level.

In the bar area closest to the court, small signs read: “Courtside Considerations. Enjoy the Bar. Respect the play.”

But that might not be enough – especially when Australia’s James Duckworth takes to the court on Monday.

Asked to describe the experience of sitting in the front row of the bar area during the Rinderknech match, one woman named Sarah gave a simple answer to Foxsports.com.au: “boozy”.

“No, it’s awesome. It’s great to have a bit of a mix of being able to watch the tennis and having a (bar).”

So how does it compare to the likes of Rod Laver Arena?

Her friend Sally-Anne says: “This is great actually! This would be just as good as having a seat in one of the (arenas) like John Cain or something for sure… front row here, being able to have a drink, with the bar behind you!”

It’s clear that this is a unique experience, and there’s plenty of positives to crow about from the opening day.

But as Rinderknech noted in his post-match press conference, some players might be far less comfortable in the noisy environment.

Sally-Anne added: “We’ve come from other courts where it is silence during the play which you can see happens over there (in the bleachers), but absolutely isn’t happening here!”

“No one’s even pretending to be quiet here,” Sarah said.

Originally published as ‘Playing in a nightclub’: Aus Open ‘party court’ leaves star raging

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