French Open doubles pair disqualified after Miyu Kato hits ball girl with ball

A doubles pair were defaulted from the French Open on Sunday after Japanese player Miyu Kato hit a ball girl in the head with a ball.

Kato and her Indonesian partner Aldila Sutjiadi, the 16th seeds, were leading Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-6 (1) 1-3 in the third round of the women’s doubles when the Japanese player hit the ball down to the other end of the court at the end of a point.

Unaware that the ball was coming, the ball girl was struck directly on the head and began crying.

The umpire originally gave Kato a warning but, with Czech Bouzkova and Spaniard Sorribes Tormo pointing out the girl’s distress, the supervisor and referee were called to Court 14.

Kato apologised to the ball girl and lengthy discussions took place before the decision was made to disqualify the pair, who appeared incredulous, amid booing from the crowd.

Bouzkova said afterwards: “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 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.”

The incident comes a day after 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva admitted she feared she would be defaulted after she angrily swiped a ball into the crowd during her singles match with Coco Gauff.

It is three years, meanwhile, since Novak Djokovic was defaulted from the US Open after hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball swatted away in annoyance.

Kato took to Twitter on Sunday evening, saying: “I would like to sincerely apologize to the Ball Girl, my partner Aldila & Team, & my supporters because of today’s unfortunate mishap. It was completely unintentional. As a result, I am penalized by RG by forfeiting my prize money & points. I appreciate all your continued support!”