A man in the stands allegedly heckled Alexander Zverev with the Nazi-era German anthem.
Security at the US Open tennis tournament ejected a fan on Tuesday, after German player Alexander Zverev complained to umpires about hearing “the most famous Hitler phrase there is” coming from the stands.
The incident happened during the fourth set, as the 12th-ranked Zverev was serving against Italy’s Jannik Sinner, six places above him on the ATP rankings list. The match had begun on Monday evening.
“He just said the most famous Hitler phrase there is in this world,” Zverev told chair umpire James Keothavong. “It’s not acceptable.”
Other spectators identified the offender to event security, which removed him from the Arthur Ashe stadium in New York.
“A disparaging remark was directed toward Alexander Zverev,” US Tennis Association (USTA) spokesman Chris Widmaier said in a statement after the match. “The fan was identified and escorted from the stadium.”
Zverev went on to lose that set, but eventually prevailed over Sinner to advance to the quarterfinals, where he will face defending champion Carlos Alcaraz of Spain.
“He started singing the anthem of Hitler that was back in the day,” Zverev told reporters after the match. “It was ‘Deutschland ueber alles’ and it was a bit too much.”
“I love when fans are loud, I love when fans are emotional. But I think me being German and not really proud of that history, it’s not really a great thing to do and I think him sitting in one of the front rows, I think a lot of people heard it. So if I just don’t react, I think it’s bad from my side,” Zverev added.
The 26-year-old told reporters that hecklers had shouted things at him before, but never with references to the Hitler era. Zverev was born in Hamburg, to ethnic Russian parents who emigrated in 1991.
“Germany, Germany above all, above all in the world” are the opening lines of the ‘Song of the Germans,’ written in 1841 and adopted as the national anthem of Weimar Germany in 1922. Seen as tainted by the association with Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, the first and second stanzas were dropped after 1945 in the national anthem of West Germany, which became the anthem of the reunified state in 1990.