Thursday 21 September 2017

Eugenie Bouchard stuns Maria Sharapova in grudge match and claims 'a lot of players had privately wished me good luck'

Eugenie Bouchard (L) shakes hands with Maria Sharapova after theie epic match.
Eugenie Bouchard (L) shakes hands with Maria Sharapova after theie epic match.

Charlie Eccleshare

Motivated more than usual, Eugenie Bouchard used her game to send a message to Maria Sharapova by defeating the Russian 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in a thrilling second-round match at the Madrid Open on Monday.

Bouchard, one of the most outspoken players against Sharapova's return to tennis following a doping ban, jumped up and down after converting her second match point in just under three hours.

The players casually shook hands at the net and exchanged brief plaudits.

It was their first meeting since Bouchard called Sharapova a cheater and said she should have been banned for life from the sport after testing positive for meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

"I definitely had some extra motivation going into today," Bouchard said. "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."

There were no major signs of animosity between them. They went about their business, not paying too much attention to each other in between points.

Bouchard defeated Sharapova for the first time by taking advantage of the Russian's 49 unforced errors and struggles on serve, including nine double faults. The 60th-ranked Canadian had 21 break opportunities, converting five of them.

The Madrid Open is only the second tournament for Sharapova since serving a 15-month suspension. The five-time Grand Slam champion reached the Stuttgart semifinals last month. She received a wild card there, and a wild card here. Most players were against her receiving free entry without having to qualify.

Bouchard had not backed off her comments, and said she was looking forward to playing Sharapova, the 2014 Madrid champion.

"It definitely helps when you can back it up," Bouchard said. "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."

Sharapova said she didn't need extra motivation to play against anybody.

"I'm just one of the two players out on the court," Sharapova said. "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."

There were a few long stares and some loud cheers by the players after some points.

Sharapova won the first game with a powerful shot straight at Bouchard's body at the net, forcing Bouchard to protect herself. The Canadian deflected the ball with her racket and lost the point.

In a tense game near the end of the first set, Sharapova was frustrated after Bouchard won a point with a ball that changed directions from a net cord. Bouchard turned around without directly apologising.

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