JO KONTA has defended Katie Boulter’s controversial French Open pay packet.
Boulter received £20,300 – 50 per cent of the first-round prize money – even though she won’t hit a ball in anger at Roland Garros this week.
The Leicester star, 22, withdrew from her match with Croatian No23 seed Donna Vekic with a back complaint yet will still bank one of her biggest cheques.
It was always unlikely she was ready to play here but because she was on site before the withdrawal, she is permitted to earn the cash.
Critics were angry that she had not been more honest about her condition after racing over to Paris before pulling out.
But Konta, 28, argued: “What she did was perfectly within the rules, as far as I understand.
“That’s why we have rule changes. So players can be rewarded for where there are ranking places in the main draw here.
“And for the tournament to still get good quality first-round matches, for the players that are hurt to have the freedom to be able to pull out, and still feel they aren’t losing out on income.
RULES ARE RULES
“It’s the rules that players who are unfit to play are able to pull out on site and get half the prize money.
“I have no idea her circumstances or what preceded it so I can’t say [about her honesty] because I literally have no idea."
Konta takes on German qualifier Antonia Lottner in the first round on the back of resurgent form on clay.
Following her exploits in the Fed Cup where Britain won World Group II promotion, Konta lost in the finals of the Moroccan and Italian Opens and has risen to 26th in the world rankings.
The superb results this year on clay are at odds with her performances at the French Open since 2015 – four matches played, four defeats, only two sets won out of ten, only 43 per cent of games won.
In spite of that record, Konta remains optimistic she can finally break her duck on the red clay at major level.
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Konta said: “I never had any doubts that I can play to a good level on this surface.
“I’ve always said that when I was younger and as a young professional I had most of my good results on the clay initially, but it definitely hadn’t gone my way for a couple of years.
“I’m enjoying the work I’m doing every day I’m showing up in practice and giving myself every opportunity to improve.
“I’ve played some tough opponents in the first round here, players who’ve had a bit more experience on the surface in this situation, in this kind of setting.
“Factually, yes, I haven’t had successful periods on clay in the last couple of years.
“But I definitely feel I’m trusting myself right now in the things I’m doing because I’ve been fortunate enough to have had good wins and great matches to back that up.”
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