Sport Tennis Australian Open The scary Australian Open moment that ‘could literally have killed the chair umpire’
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The scary Australian Open moment that ‘could literally have killed the chair umpire’

Maria Sharapova leaves the court as officials remove part of the umpire's canopy shade, broken by the spidercam on Sunday. Photo: Getty
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An out-of-control camera veered towards the head of a court umpire and destroyed a sun shield in a scary moment at the Australian Open on Sunday.

As the Rod Laver Arena crowd celebrated Ashleigh Barty’s win over Maria Sharapova, the operators of ‘Spidercam’ – a camera placed high to give those watching on television a bird’s eye view of proceedings – lost control of the device.

It dropped at a rate of knots and just missed court umpire Alison Hughes’ head, crashing into a sun shield above her that fell onto the court.

The sun shield narrowly missed a ball kid and Sharapova was not far away, either, the Russian packing up her bags before leaving court.

Former tennis chair umpire Richard Ings was furious after watching the incident, insistent that the camera could have “killed the chair umpire”.

“One cannot express how serious this incident is. The workplace should be safe,” Ings, also a former chief executive of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, posted on Twitter.

“The camera at that speed could literally have killed the chair umpire.

“Where was the risk management plan to ensure the risk of injury from this spider cam was mitigated?”

The camera was later inspected by operators, but it was working again for Rafael Nadal’s battle with Tomas Berdych.

Respected tennis writer Ben Rothenberg from the New York Times said on Twitter he was “grateful that Alison Hughes wasn’t decapitated.”

Passing Shots

Our wrap-up of the weird and wonderful on day seven at the Open starts with an unhappy Sharapova in her post-match media conference.

A seven-minute toilet break between the second and third sets from Sharapova angered the crowd, who may have thought she was trying to stall the Aussie’s growing momentum.

Sharapova was booed when she came back on to court and she was initially asked about the crowd’s reaction, if it was unfair and if it affected her.

“What do you want me to say to that question?” an unimpressed Sharapova asked.

A journalist responded: “I don’t know. Just the truth, I guess.”

“I think that’s a silly question to ask,” Sharapova snapped back.

She was asked about the incident again but refused to respond and was then hit with a question about meldonium – the banned substance she admitted to using which led to her drugs ban.

“You took meldonium legally for 10 years to deal with your health problems. Now that it’s banned and you can no longer take it, is that a struggle physically to deal with it – the demand of a grand slam fortnight?” a journalist asked.

“Is there another question?” Sharapova responded with.

It is fair to say the Russian was not in the most talkative of moods.

Shock of the day

World No.2 Angelique Kerber was a big favourite to topple unseeded American Danielle Collins in their clash on Sunday.

But Collins, who had never won a match at a grand slam before this Australian Open, booked her spot in the quarter-finals with a stunning 6-0 6-2 triumph over the German.

And it took only 56 minutes to compile, with the first set over in just 20 minutes.

Happy Birthday to …

Frances Tiafoe. The American turned 21 on Sunday and capped the milestone birthday with a fourth-round win.

Tiafoe, who has hit the headlines for his big post-match celebrations throughout the tournament, continued his giant-killing run at the Open with a four-set triumph over Grigor Dimitrov.

Next up? Rafael Nadal.

ScoMo hits Melbourne Park

Our Prime Minister Scott Morrison took the time to personally congratulate Ash Barty after her win over Maria Sharapova.

He was also seen sitting near AFL boss Gillon McLachlan for Roger Federer’s surprise loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas and was booed when he came on the big screen.

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