Maria Sharapova has had a lot on her plate recently and is not expected to be a happy camper, particularly not after losing in the second round of the Madrid Open in her supposed “comeback.”
And her opponent was none other than Eugenie Bouchard, who was particularly vocal about Sharapova’s controversial exploits, referring to her as a “cheater” prior to her return to competitive tennis in April after serving a 15-month doping ban.
Bouchard, ranked 60th in the world, overcame her bitter rival for the first time since stating the five-time Grand Slam winner should be permanently banned from tennis.
It’s a view that plenty of others on the tour share and the Canadian received plenty of support ahead of the clash in Madrid.
“I definitely had some extra motivation going into today,” Bouchard conceded at a post-match press conference.
“I was actually quite inspired before the match because I had a lot of players coming up to me privately wishing me good luck, players I don’t normally speak to, getting a lot of texts from people in the tennis world that were just rooting for me. So I wanted to do it for myself, but also all these people. I really felt support.
“It showed me that most people have my opinion, and they were just maybe scared to speak out.”
Common courtesy and sportswomanship dictates that a truce must be called at the end of a tie, mostly in the form of a post-match handshake, maybe a hug or a kiss, but there was no love lost between the two as they approached the net post-match and, with steel in their eyes, briefly grasped hands in a visibly awkward show of good intent, before turning to the umpire.
Check that piece of action out in the video below:
How cold was Bouchard’s stare?
Sharapova was initially sentenced to a two-year ban after it emerged she had tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, a sentence that was later reduced to 15 months after the Court for International Arbitration for Sport judged the Russian to not be an “intentional doper.”
Both players seemed pumped up in the early exchanges, with Sharapova looking to come out on top and led 4-2 after six games before some sloppy play – including six double faults – allowed Bouchard to come back into the game.
After a 12-minute service game, Bouchard eventually took the set 7-5.
Sharapova looked to have learned from her errors in the first set and smashed her way to a 6-2 win in the second set but Bouchard recovered to take the third set 6-4 and secure a tie with Angelique Kerber in the next round.
“It definitely helps when you can back it up,” Bouchard added. “Obviously, there was a lot going on besides tennis in this match. As soon as I stepped on the court, I really just wanted to make it about tennis. We both did that. We just battled our hearts out.”
While Bouchard sought motivation off-court, Sharapova preferred to keep it on-court saying, “I’m just one of the two players out on the court.
“Everything that surrounds myself, I don’t pay attention to much of it. I’ve been part of this game for many years. I know what the drill is.”
Bouchard did manage to throw in a little bit of cheek with a stinging remark saying: “She has played well in her so called ‘comeback’, if you want to call it that.”
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