Balkan fans clash at Australian Open

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The Independent Online

Police officers ejected more than 150 fans after an ugly clash between Serbian and Croatian fans marred the opening day of the Australian Open.

With the Croatian contingent at Melbourne Park to watch Mario Ancic in action and the Serbians attending to keep an eye on rising star Jelena Jankovic, tempers boiled over at about midday local time.

Punches were thrown and some spectators were kicked as the earlier verbal taunts between the two groups escalated into the physical battles.

But police and security moved in and quickly brought the Garden Square area that sits next to Rod Laver Arena back under control.

Tennis Australia later released a statement praising the quick response of security and police, with the two groups moved on in separate directions from the Melbourne Park precinct, while Ancic and Jankovic were both

"The only thing I can say, we have the best fans, and they're well-known for their good supporting, correct supporting," Ancic said after beating Japanese wildcard Go Soeda 6-4 6-3 6-2.

"And I've been here many years. They were great to me."

"No, I was playing, and I heard that there was some fights," Jankovic said after her 6-3 6-3 win over Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak.

"But like I said, here in Melbourne it's a little bit strange because I think it's just a sport and people should just come and enjoy the game.

"It's not about where you're from or you either like the player and you'll cheer for them, but you don't have to cheer against them just because they are from some country, and I think that's wrong."

With the temperature expected to reach a scorching 39 degrees Celsius on day two, authorities will be on the alert for further trouble when Croatian Marin Cilic and Serbian Ilia Bozoljac do battle in the fourth match on court 21.

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