Umpire Alison Hughes narrowly escaped injury after a spider-cam crashed into the sun shield above her chair. Hughes was officiating the women’s singles fourth round match between Ashleigh Barty and Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open and the incident occurred minutes after the match was concluded.
— Christopher Lister (@Listy_cl) 20 January 2019
— Ant Wilson (@bullant_wilson) 20 January 2019
15th seed Barty beat five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to enter the quarter-final where she will face Czech Petra Kvitova. In the immediate aftermath of the match, Barty acknowledged the crowd and was walking back to her bench. It was then that the spider-cam, which hovers above the court vertically and horizontally to give an overhead perspective attempted to swoop down.
In doing so, it went straight for the umpire’s chair and took off the sun shield, which fell behind her between the two players’ benches.
The incident was met with a mixture of laughter and shock from the crowd and on social media. Questions were also raised on the safety of spider-cams with one user pointing out that the speed of the device could have been fatal for the chair umpire had it collided with her. “Where was the risk management plan to ensure the risk of injury from this spider cam was mitigated?”
Ashleigh Barty rallied from a set down to beat former world number one Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 at Melbourne Park on Sunday, becoming the first Australian woman in a decade to reach the quarter-finals at her home Grand Slam. With the last of the Australian men’s singles players dumped out in the early hours of Sunday morning, the nation’s hopes of a home Grand Slam champion now rest firmly on the shoulders of Barty, the 15th seed at Melbourne Park.
The 22-year-old, roared on by a raucous home crowd that included Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and men’s great Rod Laver, converted her fourth match point with an ace to seal the win in two hours and 22 minutes.