French Open in uproar as doubles pair defaulted over ball girl incident

The incident has drawn widespread condemnation across the tennis world.

Pictured right is French Open doubles pair Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi and a ball girl that got hit on the left.
French Open doubles pair Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi were defaulted after the Japanese player accidentally hit a ball into a ball girl. Pic: Eurosport

Controversy has erupted at the French Open after doubles pair Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi were defaulted after a bizarre moment involving a ball girl at Roland Garros. Japanese player Kato accidentally struck a ball girl in the neck after casually hitting a ball back over the net between points, prompting wild scenes on Court 14 at Roland Garros.

The incident came in the second set of the doubles match against Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo, who were both condemned by viewers for their lack of sportsmanship after appearing to plead with the chair umpire to disqualify their opponents. At first, chair umpire Alexandre Juge only issued a warning to Kato as the Japanese star's opponents called for harsher action.

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“This is default”, they could be heard saying. The chair umpire responded: “She didn’t do it on purpose, she (the ball girl) didn’t get injured.”

Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo then said: “But she’s crying. She’s crying.” Things then took a dramatic turn as tournament referee Remy Azemar and Grand Slam supervisor, Australian Wayne McKewen came down to Court 14 to look into the incident.

Pictured left to right, Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo at the French Open.
Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo were accused of poor sportsmanship after pleading for their French Open doubles opponents to be defaulted. Pic: Eurosport

Eventually, Kato and her partner were disqualified, much to the shock of onlookers. The Japanese star apologised after the match for what she described as a "completely unintentional" and "unfortunate mishap".

"I would like to sincerely apologise to the Ball Girl, my partner Aldila & Team, & my supporters because of today's unfortunate mishap," Kato wrote. "It was completely unintentional. As a result, I am penalised by RG by forfeiting my prize money & points. I appreciate all your continued support!"

The incident left viewers seething, with many insisting the call to disqualify the players was unnecessary and over-the-top. Others pointed the finger at Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo, and said the doubles pair's pleas to have their opponents defaulted was "disgraceful" and in poor sportsmanship.

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"It's just a bad situation for everyone," Bouzkova said after the default victory. "But it's kind of something that, I guess, is taken by the rules, as it is, even though it's very unfortunate for them. At the end of the day, it was the referee's decision."

Bouzkova said she did not see the ball hit the ball girl, but "she was crying for like 15 minutes." The Czech player said one of the officials said the ball "has to do some kind of harm to the person affected" and that "at first, (Juge) didn't see that."

Bouzkova said she and Sorribes Tormo told Juge "to look into it more and ask our opponents what they think happened." A similar incident threatened to overshadow the battle of teen stars Mirra Andreeva and Coco Gauff 24 hours earlier.

During Gauff's 6-7 (5-7) 6-1 6-1 singles victory over Andreeva, the 16-year-old Russian swatted a ball into the Court Suzanne Lenglen stands after dropping a point in the first set. Andreeva was given a warning by the chair umpire for unsportsmanlike conduct but no further penalty.

"I heard about that. Didn't see it," Bouzkova said. "I guess it just depends on the circumstances and the given situation as it happens. ... It is difficult, for sure."

with agencies

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