The scene at Rod Laver Arena during day six of the Australian Open suddenly became about far more than tennis.
Early in the second set of Saturday’s third-round match between Ana Ivanovic and Madison Keys, Ivanovic’s coach Nigel Sears collapsed and was taken to a hospital hooked up to a defibrillator.
Sears, 58, is also the father-in-law of Andy Murray, who was simultaneously playing Joao Sousa on Margaret Court Arena while the harrowing scene unfolded. Kim Sears is back in the U.K. while nearly nine months pregnant with the couple’s first child.
Ivanovic and Keys were off the court for nearly an hour as the match was delayed for the situation in the stands. Sears left Ivanovic’s player box while she was up 6-4, 1-0 in the second set, and he apparently collapsed while walking up the stairs.
Ivanovic immediately recognized Sears missing from her box as medical personnel rushed to the site, and she was visibly shaken by the ordeal.
Pam Shriver reported on ESPN’s telecast that the players were given the option to postpone the match, but both women agreed to continue. Within 90 minutes of his collapse, the broadcast confirmed Sears was awake and alert while undergoing tests in a nearby hospital.
Shriver added that Ivanovic knew about “a history” of health issues which may have explained the incident and likely influenced her willingness to continue the match. Ivanovic won three of the ensuing five games before ultimately dropping the second set.
She rebounded to win the first three games of the third set before losing the next five. Ivanovic got it to 4-5, 30-all on Keys’ serve and excruciatingly missed a wide-open forehand. Keys won the only women’s third-round matchup between top-20 seeds moments later.
The situation was relatively unprecedented, and Murray’s family was repeatedly shown checking their phones in his box, presumably finding out about Sears’ condition while Murray played on without any idea. The incident occurred early in the second set of Murray’s four-set victory. He was ushered off the court quickly afterward without doing the typical post-match interview. All in all, Australian Open officials seemed to handle the potentially uneasy situation quite well.
Murray, the No. 2 seed, said earlier in the week he wouldn’t hesitate to leave the tournament if his wife went into labor. He surely didn’t anticipate that it would be her father, whom Brad Gilbert described as an avid runner and health conscious, would be the one rushed to a hospital.
For Ivanovic, it wasn’t even the first time this tournament she has dealt with an on-court delay due to a fan incident. Her second-round match on Rod Laver was delayed for 25 minutes when a spectator tumbled down a set of stairs and required medical attention.
“It was actually good that we had to wait a little bit because I was really shaking, because I could imagine and it was not so nice,” Ivanovic said on Thursday.
Saturday’s injury in the stands surely hits closer to home for Ivanovic, whose night took an abrupt turn both on and off the court.