Laver Cup protester sets arm on fire on court ahead of Roger Federer's farewell

·4 min read
A climate change activist protests against UK private jets while lighting his right arm on fire during the Laver Cup tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London, Britain, 23 September 2022 - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A climate change activist protests against UK private jets while lighting his right arm on fire during the Laver Cup tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London, Britain, 23 September 2022 - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

A climate change protester was arrested after he set himself on fire ahead of Roger Federer’s farewell appearance at the Laver Cup.

The bizarre incident occurred during Friday’s afternoon session of the exhibition event at London’s O2 Arena, when the protester, a 20-year-old man named Kai who is part of the ‘End UK Private Jets’ climate activist group, stormed the court during the changeover at the start of the second set between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman.

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 planes 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.

The man sat crossed leg next to the net and poured lighter fluid onto his right arm and set it on fire, grimacing as his skin burned.

A protester invades the court, wearing a slogan 'End UK Private Jets' during the singles game between Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas of Team Europe and Argentina's Diego Schwartzman of Team World at the 2022 Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London on September 23, 2022 - AFP
A protester invades the court, wearing a slogan 'End UK Private Jets' during the singles game between Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas of Team Europe and Argentina's Diego Schwartzman of Team World at the 2022 Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London on September 23, 2022 - AFP
A man pours flammable liquid to sets fire on his hand during protest at a match Team World's Diego Schwartzman against Team Europe's Stefanos Tsitsipas on day one of the Laver Cup tennis tournament at the O2 in London, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 - AP
A man pours flammable liquid to sets fire on his hand during protest at a match Team World's Diego Schwartzman against Team Europe's Stefanos Tsitsipas on day one of the Laver Cup tennis tournament at the O2 in London, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 - AP
A climate change activist protests against UK private jets while lighting his right arm on fire during the Laver Cup tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London, Britain, 23 September 202 - Shutterstock
A climate change activist protests against UK private jets while lighting his right arm on fire during the Laver Cup tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London, Britain, 23 September 202 - Shutterstock

On commentary for Eurosport, American former world No 1 Jim Courier sounded startled saying: "Oh my." Onlookers, including Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg, were left stunned and TV cameras captured Tsitsipas looking at the incident and walking back to his bench.

Security quickly ran onto the court and put out the flames, before dragging the protester away. He was handed over to police, who arrested him on suspicion of aggravated trespass. He was taken to hospital as a precaution; his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening or life-changing. Telegraph Sport understands he will remain in custody overnight.

Stewards remove a protester after setting fire to the court on day one of the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Friday September 23, 2022 - PA
Stewards remove a protester after setting fire to the court on day one of the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Friday September 23, 2022 - PA

Kai is part of the ‘End UK Private Jets’ climate change protest group, which claims that “carbon emissions in 2022 are genocide”.

Stewards remove a protester after setting fire to the court on day one of the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Friday September 23, 20 - PA
Stewards remove a protester after setting fire to the court on day one of the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Friday September 23, 20 - PA

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.”

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 a 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Speaking after his win, Tsitsipas said: “It came out of nowhere. I [have] never had an incident like this happen on court so I hope he's all right. I wanted to proceed with that match without having any minor changes to the court and I wanted to make sure it's playable, especially that area. There was a big mark over there and I wanted it to be cleaned up in order for me to proceed the way I did before."

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.