By: Nadeemy Haded

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, formerly ranked first in the world, withdrew from an exhibition match on Tuesday in Kooyong, a suburb of the Australian city of Melbourne, due to smoke from fires that hit the east of the country.

The 32-year-old asked for a time-out when she was tied in Group 5-5 (after her first 6-7 loss) with German Laura Sigmund, claiming that "the players inhale the smoke".

The fire department in Australia had announced on Tuesday its success in curbing the strongest "huge fire" the country has known, which has remained for three months out of control, while rain is expected to start soon in the affected areas.

The fires that caused the deterioration of air quality in Melbourne led the organizers of the Australian Open to suspend the exercises scheduled for Tuesday, in preparation for the first major slam tournaments that start next Monday.

Sharapova, who played with an adhesive bandage to facilitate breathing, described the conditions of play as "harsh", explaining that she had suffered "coughing attacks" at the end of the second set.

"The referee of the chair asked us to go an extra mile," said the holder of the title of 5 major championships, which fell to the 145th position in the world due to her suffering with injuries.

She added, "In my view, the decision (withdrawal) was wise." Sharapova received an invitation from the organizers to participate in the Open Australia.

For her part, Sigmund described smoke as "penetrated my structure, this is the first time I have played in similar circumstances and I acknowledge that I felt in the second group."

Source Sky News

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