Having lost the opening set to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, Japan’s Kato and Sutjiadi of Indonesia were leading 3-1 in the second set of their third round match when the incident happened.
Eurosport coverage showed Kato innocuously hitting the ball to the back of the court after a point, and though it didn’t appear as if she intentionally meant to hit the ball girl, the ball hit her head. Standing at the back of the court, the tearful ball girl was visibly shaken.
Chair umpire Alexandre Juge issued a code violation before grand slam supervisor Wayne McKewen and tournament referee Remy Azemar appeared on Court 14. After discussions between the officials and the players, it was announced Kato and Sutjiadi had been defaulted.
The Roland Garros crowd greeted the news with jeers and boos, while Sutjiadi comforted Kato.
Tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg tweeted: “Brutal call. Ball not hit in anger whatsoever, just hit across to ball girl to keep the match flowing because it was the other team’s turn to serve. Ball girl had hands full, reacted late.”
It isn’t the first time a player has been defaulted at a grand slam. One of the most high-profile incidents happened in 2020 when Novak Djokovic’s US Open ended early after he was defaulted for unintentionally hitting a line judge.
According to the grand slam rule book, players “shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw a tennis ball within the precincts of the tournament site except in the reasonable pursuit of a point during a match (including warm-up)”
The rule book states: “In all cases of default, the decision of the referee in consultation with the grand slam chief of supervisors shall be final and unappealable.”
A player who is defaulted loses all ranking points earned at the tournament, the rule book states, and all prize money earned at the tournament.