Two tennis stars have been booted out of the French Open after one of the pair inadvertently left a ball girl in tears.
Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi were taking on Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo in the third round of the women’s doubles when the incident happened. Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo had edged the first set 7-6 on Court 14.
Their opponents had fought back in the second set though and were 3-1 up with the set in the fifth game. The score was level at 30-30 when Kato hit the ball cross-court over the net as Sorribes Tormo prepared to serve.
While not hit in anger, the shot hit a ball girl on the shoulder, with the girl left in tears and visibly upset. The careless backhand landed the Japanese-Indonesian team in hot water with match umpire Alexandre Juge.
Juge initially handed Kato and Sutjiadi a warning, before Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo stormed over to protest his apparent leniancy. ITF supervisior Wayne McKewen and tournament referee Remy Azemar were then called to the court.
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An emotional Kato had also gone over to comfort and apologize to the ball girl. Despite her remorse though, Juge’s decision was eventually upgraded after 15 minutes of deliberation to a default.
The default ensured Kato and Sutjiadi were removed from the tournament altogether. Kato was comforted by Sutjiadi after the decision was confirmed, while the ball girl was escorted off the court.
When the announcement was made over the Court’s tannoy, the crowd booed the decision, with Kato and Sutjiadi applauded off. Supervisior McKewen though insisted that the decision to hand out a default was correct.
“The result is serious. The ball girl has been hit. If you hit a ball not in play and it hits someone and they are injured, then you are responsible. Even though you didn’t mean it, you are still responsible for that action,” he said.
“It wasn’t intentional but that doesn’t matter. If you hit the ball in-between points and it hits someone and they are injured, then you are responsible for the end of the match. The way you passed it, you have injured someone.”
“You may not have meant to do it, you may have meant it just in frustration. If it is during play, it’s different. If it’s in-between points, and you hit a ball that hits someone and they are injured, you are then responsible for that action.”
McKewen compared the incident to a similar one that saw Novak Djokovic disqualified from the 2020 US Open.
Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo will now face Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez in the quarter-finals.