Wed, May 10, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Eugenie Bouchard follows up criticism against Maria Sharapova with victory


Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard returns to Russia’s Maria Sharapova at the Mutua Madrid Open in Spain on Monday.

Photo: EPA

Eugenie Bouchard on Monday pulled off her first win over Maria Sharapova with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 triumph in the Madrid Open in a thrilling contest full of tension after the Canadian had called the Russian a cheater following a doping ban.

Bouchard, 23, saw the five-time Grand Slam winner as her idol when she was growing up, but her admiration vanished when Sharapova tested positive for the banned substance meldonium at last year’s Australian Open, which led to a 15-month suspension.

The match was the most eagerly anticipated when the draw was made after Bouchard’s comments in the Turkish media last month, when she said Sharapova was a “cheater” and should not have been allowed to compete again following her positive test.

Bouchard stood by her comments about Sharapova on arriving in the Spanish capital, and after Monday’s victory the Canadian said recent events had made her more fired up for the game.

“I definitely had some extra motivation going into today. Obviously, I had never beaten her before and then there were other circumstances,” she told a news 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,” she added.

After suffering a tough defeat, Sharapova avoided getting drawn into the extra furor surrounding the game.

“I’ve been part of this game for many years. I know what the drill is,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just two athletes competing against each other, and I’m one of them. That’s how I treat this game.”

“What you work for for so many hours every single day is to be on the winning end of matches. Today was just not that day,” she added.

Monday’s enthralling contest, which lasted nearly three hours, certainly lived up to the hype.

Bouchard, ranked 60th in the world, entered Madrid after five tour-level opening-round losses in a row and her three-set first-round win over Alize Cornet was her first since the Australian Open in January.

However, her extra determination to beat Sharapova was on display as she managed to win a grueling 70-minute first set against the 30-year-old Russian by clinching the 12th game.

Sharapova, who last month reached the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix semi-finals in her first tournament since being banned, was given a pep talk by coach Sven Groeneveld at 2-1 down in the second and roared back to win four straight games to wrap up the set.

However, the Russian played too many risky shots in the decider and, after saving three break points in two consecutive service games, she was broken in the seventh game.

Sharapova broke back immediately, but then dropped another service game to allow Bouchard to serve out for the match.

The pair endured a brief, awkward handshake after Bouchard claimed a place in the third round against top seed Angelique Kerber, who she beat on her way to the Wimbledon final in 2014.

In the second round of the women’s doubles yesterday, Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan and Martina Hingis of Switzerland rallied from a set down to defeat Darija Jurak of Croatia and Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 4-6, 6-2, 10-6 in 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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