Miyu Kato bounces back from ‘unjust’ disqualification to win mixed doubles title

Miyu Kato bounces back from ‘unjust’ disqualification to win mixed doubles title

Miyu Kato secured her French Open redemption by bouncing back from disqualification to win the mixed doubles title – and then publicly hit out at the controversial decision.

The Japanese player and partner Aldila Sutjiadi were defaulted during their third-round women’s doubles match on Sunday against Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo after Kato unintentionally hit a ball girl while passing a ball to the other end of the court.

It unexpectedly became one of the biggest stories of the tournament, with players and coaches past and present criticising the decision as too harsh.

Kato was at least allowed to continue in the mixed with German partner Tim Puetz, and they ensured a happy ending to the tournament by beating Bianca Andreescu and Michael Venus 4-6 6-4 (10-6) in the final, with both claiming a first grand slam title.

Kato had been too upset to speak about the disqualification in English but prepared a speech to read out on court.

Instead of the usual platitudes, the 28-year-old fought back tears as she said: “It has been really challenging mentally for me the past few days due to the unjust disqualification from the women’s doubles.

“I want to thank the players and coaches for all the heartfelt support. I was able to use all the positive energy to move forward so I could be here today.

Miyu Kato, left, and Tim Puetz kiss the trophy
Miyu Kato, left, and Tim Puetz kiss the trophy (Thibault Camus/AP)

“It was unfortunate that we were disqualified but I’m doing my best so we can return one day and claim the women’s doubles final. Hopefully the ball girl is OK.

“Lastly, to Roland Garros, it is unfortunate for the disqualification situation but I’m looking forward to a positive result of my appeal so I can claim my points and prize money.”

Being defaulted from a tournament normally means forfeiting the ranking points and prize money you have earned but Kato is hoping the nature of the offence means that will be overturned.

The umpire initially only gave the Japanese player a warning but, with Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo drawing attention to the crying ball girl, the supervisor and referee were called to the court and eventually decided a default was merited.

Neither had seen the incident and Kato was unhappy with Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo’s role, saying in Japanese: “What I can’t swallow is that at first the chair umpire gave me warning, but then our opponents said that he had made a mistake.

“The opponent made a big appeal, and then the referee came down and overturned the decision. My opponent probably didn’t see where I hit her.”

Kato thanked Puetz for being a key support, and the German was delighted to help her create more positive memories of the tournament.

“Miyu, unbelievable what has happened the last 10 days,” he said. “I hope this helps you. I’m very happy to win even without all the drama.

“I hope this is somewhat redemption with everything that has happened. We saw you get so much support from everywhere and I think it’s well deserved.”

In the press room later, the German stuck out an olive branch to officials, saying: “We haven’t really had a chance to say thank you to the tournament, to the Grand Slam board, to the supervisors.

“The standard procedure would have been to take us out of mixed, as well. Even though it’s a thank you with a little pain in our hearts still, especially in Miyu’s, but they took into consideration what has happened, they went out of their way to talk about it, to even let us keep playing mixed.

“Miyu, sitting here today, not crying anymore, I think is a great thing. I think this is a good end to this whole story.”