Tue, May 09, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Grudge match: Sharapova faces Bouchard in Madrid

AP, MADRID

Maria Sharapova’s reward for advancing to the second round of the Madrid Open on Sunday is a match against Eugenie Bouchard, one of the most outspoken players against the Russian’s return after a doping ban.

Sharapova recovered from a shaky opening to defeat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the first round.

Playing in her second tournament since a 15-month doping suspension, Sharapova denied there would be extra motivation to defeat Bouchard after the Canadian previously called her “a cheater” and said she should be banned from the sport for life.

“It’s not the way I go about my job,” the 30-year-old Sharapova said. “I’ve been in the public eye since I was a very young girl. I’ve heard a lot of things. If everything affects you on and off the court, I think that would be a really challenging position to be in. It’s not the way I think. My tennis speaks for itself and that’s what I focus on.”

The match against Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist, would be Sharapova’s sixth since getting back after testing positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open. She played her first tournament after the ban in Stuttgart last month, being eliminated in the semi-finals by world No. 17 Kristina Mladenovic of France.

Bouchard, who on Saturday won her first main-draw match since January, has said Sharapova’s return was “unfair to all the other players who do it the right way.”

She said she was hoping to play against the Russian in Madrid.

Sharapova expects to face a difficult opponent regardless of the off-the-court controversy.

“I think in terms of a game style, there’s a little bit of similarities to who I played today — very aggressive, inside the court, takes the ball on the rise, doesn’t give you much time,” Sharapova said. “All the things that hopefully I can improve from today’s match and take it against her.”

In the first round of the women’s doubles yesterday, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia fell to a 5-7, 6-3, 10-6 loss to Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Xu Yifan of China.

Third seeds Chan Yung-jan and Martina Hingis of Switzerland received a bye into the second round.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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