Miyu Kato of Japan and Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia faced a disqualification from the French Open women’s doubles tournament after an unfortunate incident occurred during their third-round match on Sunday.
The disqualification resulted from a ball hit by Kato in between points, which accidentally struck a ball girl in the neck.
During their match against Marie Bouzkova from the Czech Republic and Sara Sorribes Tormo from Spain, Kato and Sutjiadi found themselves trailing by a set. However, they managed to gain a 3-1 advantage in the second set before the match took a sudden turn due to the incident.
The umpire, following the established rules, called off the match after the ball girl was struck by Kato’s shot. Both the ball girl and Kato were visibly distraught, shedding tears in the aftermath of the unfortunate event.
While commentators on the Tennis Channel expressed sympathy for the players involved, they emphasized the importance of the rule that led to the disqualification. “You can tell it was inadvertent, she was hitting the ball back, but it’s the rule. If you hit a ball person or a lines person, anyone in the stands, it’s an automatic default. This was a tough scene,” said one announcer.
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) June 4, 2023
New York Post reported:
After the ball girl was struck, umpire Alexandre Juge originally gave Kato a warning, which received some heat from Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo, who asked for their opponents to be disqualified because of the rule-breaking.
“No, no, let me explain to you. [Kato] didn’t do it on purpose. [The ball girl] didn’t get injured,” Juge said, according to Reuters, after the pair yelled from across the net.
“She didn’t do it on purpose? She’s crying,” Sorribes Tormo said.
“And she has blood,” Bouzkova added, which caused the Juge to check in on the ball girl, who was in distress.
After speaking to the girl, tournament referee Remy Azemar and Grand Slam supervisor Wayne McEwen went to Court 14 to look further into the incident, which ended up in a disqualification of Sutjiadi and Kato and an end to the match.
“It’s just a bad situation for everyone,” Bouzkova said. “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.”
Under the Rules and Regulations of Tennis, if a player hits a ball and it strikes a ball girl or ball boy, that is considered “abuse of balls,” which is a violation of the “Code of Conduct” rules.
According to these rules, if a player hits a ball and it unintentionally hits a ball person, it can lead to a default or disqualification, resulting in the loss of the match for the player or team involved. The severity of the incident and potential harm caused are taken into consideration by the officials when determining the appropriate course of action.
For the purposes of this Rule, abuse of balls is defined as intentionally hitting a ball out of the enclosure of the court, hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences.