Sharapova match abandoned in smoggy Melbourne

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Maria Sharapova said it was the “right call” to abandon her match at the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament as smog from raging bushfires engulfed Melbourne yesterday.

The Russian five-time Grand Slam winner was 6-7 (4/7), 5-5 down against Germany’s Laura Siegemund when the umpire called a halt, saying “the players are feeling the smoke”.

Pollution has soared to hazardous levels in Australia’s second-biggest city, suspending practice for next week’s Australian Open Grand Slam where one player was forced out of qualifying with a coughing fit.

Sharapova, who described the conditions as “extreme”, she could feel “a bit of a cough coming out through the end of the second set”.

“Then the umpire came down and said, ‘Play one more game’. We were there for over two hours. From the whole standpoint, it was the right call.”

Siegemund, ranked 72nd, said she felt the effects of the unusual conditions.

“It’s the first time I’m playing under these conditions and I do have to say that I felt it in the second set,” she told reporters.

“You can see it, I guess it’s in your head and I did feel it in my body.

“I guess if they want us to play under these conditions, everyone has to deal with it in their own way, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s the healthiest conditions to play in.”