A day after being controversially disqualified from the French Open for accidentally hitting a ball girl with a ball, an emotional Miyu Kato struggles to answer questions about the incident.
Kato and partner Aldila Sutjiadi were dismissed from the doubles on Sunday after the Japanese player hit a ball girl after hitting the ball to the back of the court after one point.
Kato, who was seen crying on the court after his disqualification, returned to action on Monday and reached the mixed doubles semi-finals after winning in straight sets with fellow German Tim Puetz.
It was widely reported that Kato broke down in tears on the court after winning the quarter-finals and appeared emotional in the press conference afterward, leaving the room momentarily to compose himself before a question was answered.
“I think, first and foremost, all of us, including Miyu, are happy that the green-handed girl is okay because it was clear she was hit,” Puetz told reporters after returning to the room with Kato.
“Miyu feels bad about what happened. This was really unfortunate for everyone, especially for him and the girl.
A teary eyed Kato gave a very short answer in Japanese, saying that it was difficult for him to speak English at the moment.
While Puetz understands why officials made the decision, he said it was clear there was no intent to hurt the ball girl.
“I understand he hit the ball girl. It was not accidental. I don’t think it was in anger,” he added.
“I think everyone saw the photos. It wasn’t anything bad he did. Nevertheless, it hit the ball girl.
“Then two supervisors have to come onto the pitch, maybe not even see it. All they saw was a crying ball girl being hit with a ball.
“At that time, to make that decision, it was very difficult.”
On Monday, Kato tweeted an apology to the ball girl, her doubles partner and her supporters, saying the incident happened. “totally accidental.”
“I want to thank everyone for your continued support. I have received an outpouring of positive energy from around the world, and it has lifted my spirits tremendously,” he said writein a post that has support from other players.
“Now I’m heading into the mixed doubles semi-finals, where I will use every bit of that positive energy to succeed!”
According to the grand slam rulebook, players “may not violently, dangerously or furiously punch, kick or throw a tennis ball within the tournament court except in pursuit of points during the match (including warm-ups)”
The rule book states: “In all cases of default, the decision of the referee after consultation with the chief grand slam supervisor is final and cannot be contested.”
A player who fails loses all ranking points earned in the tournament, the rulebook states, and all prize money earned in the tournament.