A climate change protester set himself on fire ahead of Roger Federer’s farewell appearance at the Laver Cup after getting on court at London’s O2 Arena.
The bizarre incident occurred during Friday’s afternoon session, ahead of Federer’s final professional tennis match, scheduled for the night session.
The protester, a 20-year-old man named Kai who is part of the ‘End UK Private Jets’ climate activist group, was seen to be wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the same slogan.
Federer and other leading tennis stars including Novak Djokovic were seen to arrive in London earlier in the week using private jets, with the Laver Cup Twitter account sharing pictures of the two multiple Grand Slam champions stepping off private aeroplanes earlier in the week. Federer also has a long-standing sponsorship deal with Netjets, the ‘world’s leading private jet company’, according to their website.
He was seen to run onto the court at London’s O2 Arena during the match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman and sat crossed leg next to the net, interrupting play during the changeover at the start of the second set.
But onlookers, including Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg, were left stunned when Kai appeared to pour lighter fluid onto his right arm and set it on fire, before unsurprisingly grimacing.
Security quickly ran onto the court and put out the flames, before dragging the protester away. He was handed over to police and was taken away for treatment, and Telegraph Sport understands he will remain in custody overnight.
Kai is part of the ‘End UK Private Jets’ climate change protest group, which claims that “carbon emissions in 2022 are genocide”.
The group’s Twitter account was only created in July of this year and has just 25 followers, with one previous post featuring Kai delivering a recorded message. The post is accompanied with the caption: “Carbon emissions in 2022 are genocide. We’re accelerating towards the cliff of runaway collapse – every second takes us closer to human extinction. And the elites are still flying in private jets.”
On commentary for Eurosport, former American player Jim Courier sounded startled saying: “Oh my.”
The TV cameras captured Tsitsipas looking at the incident and walking back to his bench as the area of the court that was on fire was cleaned.
The incident was dealt with by security, Tsitsipas – who had just clinched the first set for Team Europe – was able to continue his match with Schwartzman once the court clean-up operation was complete where he went on to seal victory.
Speaking after his win, Tsitsipas said: “ It came out of nowhere. I’ve never had an incident like this happen on court. I hope he is alright. I wanted to make sure the court was playable. There was a big mark there, I wanted it cleared up before I proceeded.”
The incident came just hours before 20-time Grand Slam tennis champion Federer is due to appear on court for his farewell appearance in a doubles match alongside great rival Rafael Nadal as the pair face the American duo of Francis Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
Andy Murray is also scheduled to be in action in the opening match of the evening session, with his singles match against Australia’s Alex de Minaur preceding Federer’s final professional outing.
Security will be on a heightened alert following the protest, which came in the first session of the three-day event that continues over the weekend.