MELBOURNE, Australia — A medical emergency overshadowed matches on adjoining courts at the Australian Open when Nigel Sears, who is Ana Ivanovic’s coach and Andy Murray’s father-in-law, was rushed to a hospital while both of their third-round matches were in progress.
Four-time finalist Murray beat No. 32 Joao Sousa 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 and signed some autographs but skipped the customary on-court interview before leaving Margaret Court Arena on Saturday night to check on the welfare of Sears, the father of his pregnant wife.
Ivanovic was leading Madison Keys 6-4, 1-0 when her match was stopped. She could be seen saying "That’s my coach," before both players left the court. It was the second time in three days that Ivanovic’s progress was interrupted for a spectator needing medical aid — her second-round match was delayed for a half-hour when a woman fell on the stairs at Rod Laver Arena.
This time, the 2008 finalist didn’t come back to win. Despite having breaks in the second and third sets, Ivanovic lost six of the last seven games to lose 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to No. 15-seeded Keys.
Australian Open organizers didn’t provide any confirmation on Sears or his condition, although stadium announcer Craig Willis told the Rod Laver Arena crowd: "Nigel Sears had a turn, as we all saw. He’s in the hospital cracking terrible jokes he cracks all the time, and a TV was wheeled into his room so he could watch the match. He’s OK."
Murray’s match wasn’t stopped, but word filtered through as he finished. His brother, Jamie Murray, was keeping track of Sears’ health, British media reported.
Tournament organizers said Murray, Ivanovic, and Keys wouldn’t be available for interviews, leaving Sousa as the only one of the four players involved in those night matches who commented on the episode.
"I just heard that Andy went direct to the hospital. Good thing is (Sears) is conscious, he’s speaking," Sousa said. "So we hope there’s nothing bad and, of course, first is the family and the health."
Murray’s wife, Kim, is due to give birth to their first child next month, and the two-time major winner said he’d miss a match in any round to be there if she goes into labour. His next match is scheduled for Monday against No. 16-seeded Bernard Tomic.
Earlier, two-time champion Victoria Azarenka dropped her opening service game without winning a point, but recovered quickly to beat Japanese qualifier Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-1. Azarenka is emerging as a favourite in the bottom half of the draw after No. 2 Simona Halep went out in the first round and No. 3 Garbine Muguruza lost in the third.
Azarenka will next play No. 48-ranked Barbora Strycova, who upset 2015 Wimbledon finalist Muguruza 6-3, 6-2.
Sydney-born Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open since 1987 when she beat Denisa Allertova 6-2, 6-2. Her next match is against 2015 semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova, who ousted No. 9 Karolina Pliskova.
Muguruza’s loss left No. 7 Angelique Kerber as the highest-ranked player in the bottom half of the women’s draw. Kerber beat Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3 to move into a fourth-round match against fellow German Annika Beck, and a potential quarterfinal with Azarenka.
Milos Raonic dedicated his third-round victory, a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win over Viktor Troicki, to victims of a shooting in a remote community in Saskatchewan, Canada, which left four people dead and at least two injured.
"Today, before I stepped out on court it was a difficult day back home," the Canadian told the crowd. "I want to take a moment and give thoughts to that community. Today’s victory was for that community, and a quick recovery and all of Canada, and I’m sure the world is behind you."
Raonic faces a tough fourth-rounder against Stan Wawrinka, the 2014 Australian and 2015 French Open champion, who advanced past Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
No. 8-seeded David Ferrer overwhelmed Steve Johnson 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 and set up a meeting with another American in the next round, No. 10-seeded John Isner, who fired 44 aces against Feliciano Lopez in winning 6-7 (8), 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4.