An Australian tennis player was reprimanded for venting frustration during her opening round clash of Australian Open in Melbourne — and making a child the target of that frustration.
Maria Vittoria Viviani, 17, was controversially disqualified for smacking a ball kid with a ball after losing the opening set 2-6 against Chinese opponent Xin Yu Wang.
Despite Viviani’s apology, the chair umpire was not in a forgiving mood and sent her packing from the match and also banned her from competing in the doubles the following day. She reportedly left the court in tears. The hit itself was not caught on camera, though journalists at the scene said the ball only lightly hit the child on the chest.
Her opponent Xin Yu Wang of China will now move into the second round where she will face Rebeka Masarova.
However, on the same day, Japan's Kei Nishikori softly swatted a ball away and made contact with a ball kid during his fourth round clash against Roger Federer. Surprisingly, he went unsanctioned for the accidental contact.
Viviani admits she cried herself to sleep after her first grand slam dream ended in heartache.
“It was hard for me. I was crying after for one hour and a half non-stop. I was crying so much. I know, and all the people who know me, they know I did nothing wrong. I'm OK with myself because I know I did nothing. This helped make me a little bit better,” said the teenager.
“The thing that makes me angry is that I did a three-month pre-season for this tournament. We come from Italy, it's so far away. We did 24 hours flight. It's not just a game, it's a job. That's the thing that hurts me more,” she added.
Viviani isn’t the only Italian tennis player to be disqualified in Australia. In 1992, Italian tennis player Stefano Pescosolido was disqualified from the Sydney International after throwing a racquet, which bounced off the court and hit a spectator in the stands.
Last year, a similar incident occurred in Auckland when Jelena Ostapenko threw her racquet and hit a ball kid, but was lucky not to be disqualified.
Viviani's fans have reacted angrily to the umpire’s decision and called the decision a “harsh punishment.”
They took to Twitter in support of the player:
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters