Pütz and Kato at the French Open: Accidental Grand Slam winners

On Wednesday, Tim Pütz sat in front of the indoor plants, which ensure a feel-good atmosphere and better air in the press wing, and said: “Of course I’m happy to be in the mixed final. Hopefully we’ll still have a win tomorrow that we can shake out of the blue and then I can call myself a Grand Slam winner with an asterisk.” A day later, Pütz was called up, this time on the clay court in Court Philippe-Chatrier, which is located just above the media center.

Miyu Kato and he should step forward – stadium announcer Marc Maury didn’t say anything with asterisks, but the former rugby player said the decisive thing: the new mixed champions are Tim Pütz, the German, and Miyu Kato, the Japanese. The two defeated Michael Venus (New Zealand) and Bianca Andreescu (Canada) 4-6, 6-4 and 10-6 in the champions tiebreak.

Normally, the mixed competition is restrained in terms of participation. The reactions on social media are also manageable. This time it was different. This Thursday, tweet followed tweet. In fact, this competition, which is only held at the four Grand Slams at the professional level, drew an unprecedented amount of attention. The reason: Because Miyu Kato was disqualified in doubles – and then Tim Pütz happened to be in the right place at the right time.

But first things first: Miyu Kato and her doubles partner Aldila Sutjiadi from Indonesia were excluded from the tournament on Sunday. In the third round match against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and Czech Marie Bouzkova, she had hit a ball after a rally to a ball girl – just a little too hard, she hit the girl who was crying. Bouzkova complained about the offense to the referee, after debates the disqualification followed. The points and the prize money (43,000 euros) for the third round were gone. Kato broke down in tears, later apologizing via Twitter. But she was also protected by professional colleagues, many thought the disqualification was exaggerated.

A thought was born out of the emergency situation

The French Open continued for Kato, she marched on the first Monday of the tournament to register in mixed – and this is where Frankfurt’s Pütz, 35, suddenly came into play by a wild coincidence.

She and he stood there and realized that neither of them came into the field due to their partner’s poor world ranking position. A thought was born from the emergency situation, as Pütz said: “If we sign up together, we can play along.” Then Pütz introduced himself: “Miyu, I’m Tim. I’m high enough in the ranking that we can get in together. Do we want to play together?” She said yes. And so, what no one knew, a Grand Slam winning duo was born.

Kato suffered from the disqualification

Kato, as Pütz quickly realized, only speaks broken English. She understands better. She is shy. So how did they communicate about tactical moves that are essential in doubles and mixed? “Not much”, Pütz admitted and laughed. “In a week and a half we haven’t discussed positional play and running paths.” They went onto the pitch and “looked at how things were going”. They didn’t even agree who would return on which side, they just stood up.

Kato, also, suffered from the disqualification. At a press conference, she burst into tears, went out, came in, a woman from the women’s tour helped, Pütz too, she wanted to read something from her cell phone, but couldn’t, she was so upset. What was really going on inside her, that is, her exact thoughts, Pütz could only guess. “I can’t even tell if that means a lot to her,” he said ahead of the final. “Whether everyone in Japan is going crazy because she’s in the mixed final, or whether she doesn’t care more or less because she thinks: Doubles was so stupid here, everything else doesn’t matter.” Pütz, the media professional, also coached her in the winning PK. Kato was asked in Japanese, she tried to explain to Pütz what she was asked, Pütz told her sensitively what she could answer. She replied in Japanese.

In Wimbledon Pütz, who otherwise hardly played mixed, will not compete again in this discipline, even if it was worth participating in Paris, both share 122,000 euros. The drama had welded them together, said Pütz, somehow. “I’ve tried to help as best I can.” This is how this Grand Slam victory jumped out, which is only the third German in mixed at the French Open, after Cilly Aussem in 1930 and Anna-Lena Grönefeld in 2014.


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