A doubles match at the French Open caused controversy on Sunday when the No.16 seeded team of Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi were disqualified from the tournament due to an incident where a ball girl was struck by a ball.
During their third round match, Japan’s Kato and Indonesia’s Sutjiadi were leading 3-1 in the second set after losing the first set to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and the Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova, when the incident occurred.
During the Eurosport broadcast, Kato hit the ball to the back of the court after a point in a seemingly harmless manner. However, the ball ended up hitting the head of the ball girl, causing her visible distress as she stood at the back of the court in tears.
The chair umpire, Alexandre Juge, gave a code violation on Court 14, with the grand slam supervisor, Wayne McKewen, and the tournament referee, Remy Azemar, also present. Following talks between the officials and the players, it was declared that Kato and Sutjiadi had been disqualified.
The announcement was met with disapproval and heckling from the audience at Roland Garros, while Sutjiadi offered support to Kato.
Ben Rothenberg, a journalist who covers tennis, expressed his disagreement with the decision, stating that the ball was not struck with any anger but was simply hit to the ball girl to maintain the momentum of the match because it was the other team’s turn to serve. The ball girl was occupied and reacted slowly.
This is not the first instance of a player being disqualified at a major tournament. One notable occurrence was in 2020 when Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open for accidentally striking a line judge.
As stated in the regulations for grand slam tournaments, players are prohibited from aggressively, dangerously, or angrily hitting, kicking, or throwing a tennis ball while on the tournament grounds, unless it is necessary to continue playing a point during a match (including warm-ups).
According to the rule book, the referee’s decision in consultation with the grand slam chief of supervisors is considered final and cannot be appealed in cases of default.
According to the rule book, a player who is defaulted forfeits any ranking points or prize money earned at the tournament.