Kato Miyu was playing in a women's doubles match in the third round of the French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament on Sunday.
A ball she hit between points directly struck a ball girl on the opposite side of the court. The impact left the girl in tears and the game was suspended.
Tournament officials determined that the action was reckless and disqualified Kato and her doubles partner.
Kato posted an apology to her fans and the ball girl on her social media account, and said the move was not deliberate. She said she was penalized by Roland Garros by forfeiting her prize money and points.
Kato says she 'cannot accept the decision'
Kato spoke at a news conference on Monday. She explained how she and her Indonesian doubles partner were forced out of the third round the previous day.
She said an official initially gave her a warning after the ball she casually hit to the opposite side of the court struck the girl, but then changed his decision after the opposing pair protested. The tournament organizer disqualified Kato and her partner, blaming Kato.
Kato said she cannot accept the decision, and denied hitting the girl intentionally. She said she had asked an official to examine the video record of the incident. But she said the official rejected her request, saying she had been "unlucky."
Tennis players, groups have mixed reactions to penalty
Three-time Grand Slam women's doubles champion Sugiyama Ai told NHK that she thinks the punishment was too harsh.
She noted that Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open in September 2020, after a ball he hit in anger accidentally struck a female line judge's neck. Sugiyama said actions like that could be called reckless, but Kato's situation was totally different because she was not venting her anger when she hit the ball.
Sugiyama said tournament officials owe Kato a better explanation for her disqualification. She said players do everything they can to win competitions, especially the Grand Slam, with so many points and prize money at stake.
The Professional Tennis Players Association called the disqualification "unjustifiably disproportionate and unfair."
The tennis association said on its Twitter account, "It is evident that the incident was accidental and not at all aggressive in nature." It also called for restoring the prize money and ranking points for Kato and Sutjiadi "at the very least."
The group said it is initiating dialogue with both the French Tennis Federation and Grand Slam Board, and has already been in direct contact with Kato.
But not everyone criticized the decision. Australian tennis player Nicholas Kyrgios came out in support of the disqualification, tweeting that "...it's not about the intent, if you hit a ball at a kid it's a default."