In a controversial turn of events at Roland Garros, Kato and Sutjiadi found themselves disqualified after striking a ball girl between points, leading to a cascade of reactions from both players and officials.
The incident unfolded during their highly anticipated women’s doubles third-round match on Sunday.
The 16th seeded duo, comprised of Kato from Japan and her Indonesian partner Aldila Sutjiadi, held a 7-6 (7-1), 1-3 lead against their opponents Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo when Kato unleashed a forceful shot towards the opposite end of the court at the culmination of a point.
Regrettably, the unsuspecting ball girl found herself in the direct trajectory of the ball, taking a direct hit to the head and subsequently bursting into tears due to the pain and shock of the impact.
Initially, umpire Alexandre Juge opted to issue a warning to Kato, failing to recognize the severity of the situation.
However, Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo, positioned across the net, immediately voiced their protest, demanding the disqualification of their opponents.
Sorribes Tormo firmly confronted the umpire, stating, “No, no, let me explain to you. She [Kato] didn’t do it on purpose, she [the ball girl] didn’t get injured.”
Counteracting Sorribes Tormo’s claim, Bouzkova pointed out, “She didn’t do it on purpose? She’s crying,” further highlighting the ball girl’s distress by adding, “And she has blood.”
Prompted by the mounting concern, the umpire approached the sobbing ball girl to assess the situation firsthand. After conversing with her, he returned to his chair and made the definitive decision to disqualify Kato and Sutjiadi, signifying the end of the match.
Reflecting on the incident, Bouzkova commented, “Obviously, we’ve had some of these issues before. It’s difficult.
The girl was crying for 15 minutes. I think the warning first happened because he (the umpire) didn’t see she was crying and she was in that kind of pain.
We told him he should look more into it because the girl was crying, and the ball went directly at her, it wasn’t kind of a slower ball. We told them (Kato and Sutjiadi) it’s very unfortunate.”
This occurrence follows closely after 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva’s admission of fearing disqualification when she angrily swiped a ball into the crowd during her singles match with Coco Gauff.
Furthermore, it serves as a reminder of Novak Djokovic’s disqualification from the US Open three years ago, when he inadvertently struck a line judge in the throat with a ball swatted away in frustration.
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