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Tennis player who erased mark on court apologizes to opponent after backlash from controversial victory

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By Ben Church, CNN

(CNN) — Tennis player Amarissa Toth has apologized to her opponent Zhang Shuai after their match at the Hungarian Grand Prix ended in controversy on Tuesday.

Toth has been heavily criticized by fans and the tennis community after the incident, where she rubbed away a mark on the court following a contentious point. The Hungarian later celebrated as a tearful Zhang retired from the match.

“I’m extremely sorry for what happened,” Toth said in a video posted by the Hungarian Grand Prix’s Instagram page Thursday.

“I respect Zhang Shuai as a person and just as much as an athlete. It was never my intention to disrespect, to upset or hurt anybody, let alone Zhang Shuai.”

In the opening set, Zhang hit a crosscourt forehand that appeared to land on the line, with a line judge and later an umpire calling the ball out.

Despite play continuing, Zhang continued to question the decision and pleaded for it to be reconsidered.

Toth then walked up to the mark on the court and rubbed it away with her foot, video shows.

A visibly distressed Zhang was heard asking, “Why did you do that?” as Toth retorts, “You’re making problems.”

A tearful Zhang later opted to retire from the match, where she was trailing 6-5, prompting Toth to celebrate.

A number of tennis players have decried Toth’s actions, with Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović criticizing the incident as “absolutely disgusting behaviour” and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka tweeting that Toth’s actions were “another level of unsportsmanlike conduct … Just wow.”

Zhang later posted a video of the incident to her social media, thanking those who have supported her.

“I do realize I shouldn’t have celebrated the way I celebrated after the match and I am sorry for that, but I got caught up by my emotions, by the heat of the match and I got caught up by the moment,” Toth added.

“I focus on tennis and I didn’t want to win like that.

“I hope that in the future I will have the opportunity to sit down and talk with Zhang Shuai and tell her how badly I feel that our match ended this way.”

Toth was beaten in the next round of the tournament by Ukrainian Kateryna Baindl.

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