Sears thanks 'incredible people' after collapse

Andy Murray (Getty)
Andy Murray (Getty)

Melbourne - Tennis coach Nigel Sears was cleared to leave hospital on Sunday and fly home after a dramatic mid-match collapse at the Australian Open which sent his son-in-law, Andy Murray, racing to his bedside.

The 58-year-old Briton, who coaches Ana Ivanovic, thanked the "incredible people" who rushed to his aid when he collapsed at Rod Laver Arena late on Saturday while watching the former women's number one play.

"My medical advice is that I will be allowed to leave the hospital shortly and I have been cleared to fly back to the UK in the next day or so," Sears said in a statement released by tournament organisers.

"I just wanted to express my sincerest thanks to the incredible people who came to my aid, as well as the brilliant staff both at the Australian Open and the Epworth Hospital.

"I feel truly grateful to everyone involved for the manner in which this has been handled."

Murray, whose wife Kim Sears is heavily pregnant, was playing on the neighbouring Margaret Court Arena unaware of the emergency, and he rushed to see his father-in-law in hospital after coming off court.

Reports said Murray, who has pledged to quit the tournament if his wife goes into labour, spent the night with Sears at hospital. The second seed was back on the practice courts on Sunday.

A hospital official earlier told AFP that Sears was out of danger but gave no word on the nature of his complaint, citing patient confidentiality.

"Everything's good, he's stable," the official said.

Witnesses said Sears appeared to receive mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before he was stretchered out of the centre-court stadium and taken to hospital.

ESPN's courtside reporter, former player Pam Shriver, said she had been told by Ivanovic's team that Sears had complained of feeling unwell 30 minutes before the match.

The incident held up play for an hour and appeared to unnerve Ivanovic before she resumed against America's Keys, eventually going down in three tight sets 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

"Thank you for all your nice tweets and words of encouragement. The crowd was amazing tonight! So grateful for all my fans around the word!" Ivanovic tweeted later.

Bizarrely, Sears' collapse mirrored an incident which shook up Ivanovic during her third-round match, when an elderly spectator was badly hurt in a fall on the stadium's stairs and also needed emergency treatment.

- 'Bad luck' -

There was no word from Murray, who cancelled his press conference after his win over Portugal's Joao Sousa, as did Ivanovic and Keys.

"I just heard that Andy went direct to hospital. The good thing is he (Sears) is good, he's conscious and speaking. So we hope there's nothing bad and of course family and health comes first," Sousa told reporters.

"So it's very good Andy went there to him."

Australia's Bernard Tomic, who is due to play Murray in the last 16, offered his sympathies to the Briton and said he was sure the incident wouldn't affect him in their match on Monday.

"I'm very sorry. I heard briefly what happened quickly," Tomic said. "For his sake, it's bad luck. I wish him the best. I'm sure it will have no effect for him when he plays on Monday."

Tomic was also shaken by a medical drama during his opening match at the tournament when a spectator suffered a seizure, and was treated by an anti-allergy shot.

Murray married Kim Sears, his long-term partner, last April and they are expecting their first child in the coming weeks.

The four-time runner-up has promised to fly home if she goes into labour during the Australian Open, even if it means missing the final.

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