Miyu Kato and her doubles partner, Aldila Sutjiadi, have found support from the Novak Djokovic-led Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) following their disqualification from the ongoing 2023 French Open.
Kato and Sutjiadi were disqualified from the women's doubles event at the Roland-Garros during their third round clash against Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo. The incident occurred when Kato unintentionally struck a ball girl while passing the ball back to the backcourt after a point. Kato also forfeited all of her 21,500 euros (about $23,000) in prize money and ranking points from women's doubles.
The PTPA released a statement on Tuesday, June 6, expressing their view on the situation. They emphasized that the safety of ball girls and boys is of utmost importance, but that it was unjust to default Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi for an unintentional act.
"The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) affirms that ensuring the safety and well-being of all individuals involved in the sport, especially the ball girls and boys, is our highest priority," the statement read. "Nevertheless, the decision to default Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi was unjustifiably disproportionate and unfair."
"It is evident that the incident was accidental and not at all aggressive in nature," the statement continued. "This should not have led to a code violation and subsequent defaulting. The incident and its aftermath underscore a fundamental principle of the PTPA: the demand for fair resolutions."
The Novak Djokovic-led organisation also underscored the importance of granting players a fair dispute-resolution process when their rights are infringed upon. They further emphasized that the recent incident demands fundamental changes to be implemented in the system.
"Players must have access to fair dispute resolution processes when their rights are violated. The PTPA advocates for proper mechanisms that give players a voice and address their concerns. Here, that means restoring Miyu's and Aldila's prize money and rankings points, at the very least," the statement read.
"Decisions, like disqualifications, must be made with impartiality, fairness, and without any external influences. This incident demands fundamental change. Severe penalties for unintentional actions undermine the sport's integrity and harm players' careers," it read further.
"Disciplinary measures should align with fairness, rehabilitation, and proportionality. As with all issues around the sport, it is crucial that players have an independent voice and are included in shaping the rules that govern their sport," it added.
"We express our unwavering solidarity with all players who have faced unjust treatment. In order to address and improve this situation, we are actively initiating dialogue with both the French Tennis Federation and Grand Slam Board; we have already been in direct contact with Miyu Kato herself. Our aim is to foster open discussions and work toward a fair and equitable environment for all players," the statement concluded.
"I want to thank everyone for your continued support" - Miyu Kato
Miyu Kato took to social media to express her heartfelt appreciation to everyone for their unwavering support in the aftermath of the incident. Kato acknowledged the positive energy she has received and conveyed her eagerness to channel that into her upcoming mixed doubles semifinal match alongside her partner, Tim Putz.
"I want to thank everyone for your continued support. I have received a worldwide outpouring of positive energy, and it has raised my spirits tremendously! Now I'm onto the mixed doubles semifinals, where I will use every bit of that positive energy to succeed!" Miyu Kato wrote.