Maria Sharapova has been called a ‘cheat’ and ‘pathetic’ over toilet break tactic in her match with Australia’s Ash Barty.
Less than an hour before she was eliminated on Sunday, the five-time Grand Slam champion was involved in a controversial moment that has sent the tennis world into a spin.
The former world No. 1 left the court after being comprehensively beaten by the Queenslander in the second set and didn’t rush back.
In fact, Sharapova took more than seven minutes to restart the game.
And when she returned to Rod Laver Arean, the crowd wasn’t happy, booing the Russian superstar.
While it didn’t break any rules, it was clearly a tactic that has prompted many to question her sportsmanship.
Sharapova refused to comment on the incident when quizzed by a journalist in her post-match press conference.
“What do you want me to say to that question?” Sharapova said.
The journalist responded by asking for the truth, much to the displeasure of the Russian star.
“I think that’s a silly question to ask,” she said before ignoring the follow up question.
Some have labelled it as ‘pathetic’ others have called her a ‘cheat’, but it didn’t do much.
Barty accelerated to a 4-0 lead in the deciding set before the 2008 Australian Open winner fought back.
The 22-year-old regained her composure late to close out the match, becoming the first Australian woman to reach the final eight of the Australian Open since Jelena Dokic progressed this far ten years ago.
When asked about the incident following the finest win of her career, the former Brisbane Heat batsman played a straight bat.
“She’s within the rules of the game. You can take a toilet break, you are allowed one toilet break per match,” Barty said.
“I think she just went to the locker room as opposed to the one that was close to the court. There is nothing I can do.
“I just have to wait, and I know she was playing by the rules that are in the rule book. Didn’t bother me at all. I was able to keep the ball rolling in the third anyway.”