Tennis fans were left puzzled after US player CoCo Vandeweghe put on an unusual display at a major tournament.

The former world number nine was up against Ekaterine Gorgodze, of Georgia, at the Koser Jewelers Tennis Challenge in Pennsylvania, when she shocked the crowds with an unsettlingly lacklustre performance.

Vandeweghe was sharply criticised for refusing to chase after balls during a warm-up with her opponent, even switching to her non-dominant hand for forehands.

One critic accused her of being “petulant”, suggesting she was being stubborn and “refusing to do a proper warmup”, while a match commentator said he had “never” seen such behaviour “in my life”.

“This is unbelievable. CoCo doesn’t want to warm up. And she says, ‘If you’re going to make me do it, then I’m not going to move, I’m not going to do anything,’” he said.

“I’ve never seen this in my life. This is wild. She’s going to do just enough here just so she doesn’t get in trouble.”

However, he also conceded that temperatures on the court had reached 90F (32C), which is pretty scorching by anyone’s standards.

Following the public backlash, Vandeweghe took to Twitter to explain her actions.

The 29-year-old explained that she’d been suffering from a “severe sinus infection” as well as heat exhaustion.

“By the end of the second set my entire body was cramping intensely and I had extreme nausea. I struggled to finish,” she wrote in a lengthy statement.

“After the (heat) suspension was lifted my opponent requested a warm-up; I informed the umpire that I preferred to skip the warm-up, citing my exhaustion and general illness in an attempt to conserve energy for what would be a grueling third set under the conditions.”

She added that she had wanted to “conserve as much energy as possible during the warm-up in preparation to compete with all of my ability in the third set,” and so had recommended that Gorgodze warm up with her coach, but her rival “declined”, forcing her back onto the court.

Despite a solid performance to clinch the first set, Vandeweghe’s game abruptly changed in the second and allowed Gorgodze to go level with her by failing to go after shots.

The American player also appeared to grab her leg at points, and called for a medical time-out after the second set - but play was then also suspended due to the hot weather.

After it was safe for play to resume, the two players returned to court. However, the American still appeared to lack energy and enthusiasm compared to her fellow competitor.

Scores of Twitter users at the time condemned Vandeweghe’s actions - or lack thereof.

However, many also defended the sportswoman:

In the end, Vandewegh withdrew from the match after the third set was suspended because of rain.

In the tournament’s second round, Gorgodze was defeated by British tennis star Emma Raducanu by two sets to one.

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