Boulter did nothing wrong, insists Fed Cup team-mate Konta

Johanna Konta holds up her runners-up trophy in Rome

Johanna Konta offered support to Fed Cup team-mate Katie Boulter following her late withdrawal from the French Open on Friday.

Boulter’s name surprisingly appeared in the draw despite it being revealed in early May that she was struggling to be fit for any of the grass-court season because of a back injury.

The 22-year-old then travelled to Roland Garros on Friday to withdraw and collected the approximately £20,000 cheque she was entitled to.

The rule allowing injured competitors to claim half of the first-round prize money was introduced at the start of last year to stop players taking to the court for a few games and then withdrawing, which had become an increasing issue as prize money rocketed.

Eyebrows were raised when Boulter then insisted she had been hoping to compete, despite having not appeared on a match court since April and has spent the past week in London.

Konta said: “I think what she did was perfectly within the rules, as far as I understand.

“I think that’s why we had the rule change happen, 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 are not losing out on income.”

Boulter aggravated her back problem during Britain’s Fed Cup victory over Kazakhstan last month where she won the deciding point after two dramatic victories from Konta over Yulia Putintseva and Zarina Diyas.

Since then, Konta has hit unexpected heights on clay, most remarkably with her run to the final of the Italian Open in Rome, one of the biggest tournaments on the WTA Tour, last weekend.

The 28-year-old has won 10 tour-level matches on the red stuff so far in 2019, more than in the rest of her career put together, and the subsequent rise in her ranking has made her the 26th seed for the year’s second grand slam.

Her reward is a first-round clash with German qualifier Antonia Lottner on Monday, a golden chance for a first main-draw victory at Roland Garros.

A third-round clash with fourth seed Kiki Bertens, who was among Konta’s scalps in Rome along with Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams, would be an enticing prospect.

“I never had any doubts that I can play to a good level on this surface,” said Konta, who began working with a new coach, Frenchman Dimitri Zavialoff, at the end of last season.

“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, so it is nice to see and nice to feel that I’m at a good level and that translates onto the clay.”

Johanna Konta lost in the first round at Roland Garros last year

Konta lost her fourth straight first-round match at Roland Garros last year and then bristled at the mention of her record in a frosty press conference.

She shrugged that off 12 months on, saying: “Factually, I didn’t have successful periods on clay in the last couple of years so you guys can only really base things on facts and I can only speak on how I feel and how I’ve felt on the surface and how I feel on the surface now.

“Actually, feeling-wise, I don’t feel much different. I think obviously winning matches on any surface or matches, in general, will definitely give you a much larger element of trust in what you’re doing. I definitely feel I’m trusting myself right now.”

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