French tennis player apologizes for striking woman with ball in emotional outburst at French Open

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A French tennis player has apologized after he launched a ball into the crowd during his first round match at the French Open over the weekend, hitting a woman in the stands. 

Terence Atmane, 22, released a statement on social media Monday after his unsportsmanlike behavior during a match against Austria’s Sebastian Ofner resulted in a woman being struck in the leg. 

Terence Atmane celebrates

Terence Atmane of France celebrates a point against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria during the Men’s Singles third round match during Day Seven of the Internazionali BNL D’Italia 2024 at Foro Italico on May 12, 2024 in Rome, Italy.  (Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Atmane, who was only issued a warning for his actions, called it a “moment of frustration” and said it was only made worse when the cord on his tennis racket broke. 

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“I broke my string at the same moment and found myself watching my ball cross the court and go straight into the leg of a spectator,” a translation of Atmane’s statement, via The Tennis Letter, read. 

“Of course, my first instinct would have been to go and apologize, but I was so shocked and disoriented by my action that no reaction came to mind… like a blackout where my brain switches off, and I can’t think of anything else — anything.” 

The incident caused a 15-minute delay as the chair umpire and officials decided how to proceed. Ultimately, Atmane was given a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct, which caused further uproar after similar actions in the past merited a forfeited match. 

FRENCH OPEN DOUBLES PLAYERS FORCED TO FORFEIT MATCH AFTER ACCIDENTALLY HITTING BALL GIRL IN NECK

Last year, doubles players Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi were forced to forfeit their third-round match after Kato accidentally hit a ball girl in the neck with a ball after a point. 

Miyu Kato, of Japan, right, serves behind her partner Aldila Sutjiadi, of Indonesia, as they play against Beatriz Haddad Maia, of Brazil, and Laura Siegemund, of Germany, in a doubles semifinal match at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Friday, March 17, 2023, in Indian Wells, California.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

“I’m working very hard on myself mentally, and people who know me know that I’ve made enormous progress in terms of frustration and stress management, even if I’m far from perfect. Stress that six months ago was causing me to lose between 4 and 6kg per tournament,” Atmane continued. 

“This gesture, which I’m sure you’ve seen on the media, was not intentional, so please forgive me for my emotional outburst and, above all, I’d like to apologize personally to the lady.” 

Ofner, who came back from a two-set deficit to win, said after the match that the incident certainly rose to the level of a disqualification. 

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“For me, it was a bit surprising, because if you do something like that on a small court, you have to be punished, you know?” he said. “Because it’s not like you hit the ball normally. It was full power. The ball was so fast. Straight in the crowd. There were people disqualified for less.”

Terence Atmane react

France’s Terence Atmane reacts after a point against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev during their men’s singles match on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 15, 2024.  (WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Atmane said he is trying to get in contact with the woman to apologize and offer her a signed racket. He said he will also accept any fine the tournament organizers decided on. 

“I’m writing this with tears in my eyes because I’m an extremely sensitive person and finding myself in this kind of situation affects me deeply,” he added. “I sincerely hope my message will be heard.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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