British tennis star Katie Boulter has reportedly angered her tennis rivals after belatedly showing up at the French Open just to pocket AU$37,000.
The 22-year-old has not played since Britain’s Fed Cup victory over Kazakhstan last month, where she aggravated a back problem, and had been ruled out of the whole clay season.
But her name surprisingly appeared in the Roland Garros draw on Thursday.
On Friday, Boulter rushed from London to Paris in order to withdraw and claim half the first-round prize money while another player takes her place and the other half of the cheque plus any future winnings.
The rule was introduced at the grand slams last year to prevent players taking to the court with no realistic chance of finishing a first-round match just to collect the ever-increasing prize money.
Boulter had posted a video of herself on social media on Thursday at the National Tennis Centre in London before travelling to Paris to pull out on Friday morning.
So disappointed to have to pull out of the French Open. I was still hoping to have a chance of competing but doctors have advised me not to take a risk with my back. Can’t wait to get back on court soon.— Katie Boulter (@KatieBoulter1) May 24, 2019
She stayed at Roland Garros to support her close friend Katie Swan in her final qualifying match but was keen to avoid talking to journalists.
"Boulter left Court 12 at maximum speed – surprisingly fast, in fact, for a woman who is understood to be suffering from a spinal stress fracture," wrote Simon Briggs in the Telegraph.
"She swept past reporters with a hasty 'sorry!' instead of stopping to explain why she had allowed her name to appear in the French Open draw.
"It was the latest awkward moment in what has been a poorly handled weekend ... But if she was so determined to squeeze the maximum prize money out of her ranking – which is what this visit was about – she would have been better advised to be more open about it."
Boulter could have avoided the hubbub by withdrawing before the draw, but she was instead pictured attending the Chelsea Flower Show on Wednesday.
Kevin Mitchell wrote in the Guardian: “Either through embarrassment or expediency, (Boulter) chose to reserve her views for social media rather than endure the scrutiny of a press conference.”
Briggs added: "She and her managers have remained evasive, in a way which has not gone down well in the locker room."
Swiss world No.95 Stefanie Voegele was unlikely to have been pleased with Boulter for failing to pull out prior to the draw.
Voegele was next in line for a direct entry but was forced to join the qualifying tournament, missing out on what would have been a minimum AU$73,000 payday.
She lost in the first round of qualifying, and Boulter's place in the main draw has since gone to successful qualifier Ludmilla Samsonova.
“It is definitely within the rules,” French Open supervisor Stefan Fransson said via the Telegraph.
“People might have different opinions on whether you are entitled to the half pay if you are ranked highly enough to play at a slam.
"But we don’t have any extra rule about whether you played in the last month or something like that.”