Falling sheet of metal interrupts French Open QF

PARIS (AP) A large sheet of metal paneling detached from a scoreboard in strong winds and crashed onto center court spectators below at the French Open on Tuesday, slightly injuring one person and causing a quarterfinal to be suspended for about 40 minutes.

The 3-meter long paneling, which was protecting the scoreboard from bird droppings, hit a barrier and a piece of equipment on its way down – slowing its fall before tumbling onto packed rows of spectators midway through the match between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Kei Nishikori.

”Three people were taken to the infirmary on site, but it turned out that two of them had nothing wrong,” tournament director Gilbert Ysern told a news conference. ”They were released. One of them was a kid, who returned on court because he wanted to support Jo. The third one was transported to hospital for further investigation on his wrist.”

With first-aiders clutching his right arm, the injured man lifted his left arm to wave to the crowd as he was helped away from the Court Philippe Chatrier.

Security guards temporarily evacuated about 200 spectators from their seats and cordoned off the area while workers inspected the back of the screen, which looms over the clay court, projecting scores and TV pictures from matches.

The wind was blowing so strongly when the accident happened that flags around Roland Garros were flying horizontally.

”We have opened an investigation to find out about what caused the incident,” said Ysern, adding that the injured man and the three friends with him ”will be our guests when they’ll want to come back.”

Nishikori and Tsonga bided their time during the suspension, first on court and then back in the locker room. Tsonga was up 6-1, 5-2 and ultimately won the match in five sets.

Spectators were allowed back into their seats when play resumed.