Sharapova sets up Bouchard grudge match in Madrid

MADRID: Maria Sharapova’s reward for advancing to the second round of the Madrid Open here 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 for life from the sport.

“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.”

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.

Sharapova took control of her opening match in Madrid after struggling early against the 20th-ranked Lucic-Baroni, cruising to victory in the final set after more than two hours on the center court, where she was loudly cheered by the fans.

Sharapova, the 2014 winner in Madrid, had 16 winners and only 10 unforced errors in her opening-round victory, her fourth since a controversial return to tennis.

The Russian was broken three times in the first set, but only once in the rest of the match at the clay-court tournament. She had a total of 19 break opportunities, converting seven of them.

Sharapova said it was “extremely important” to get the opening-round victory.

The five-time Grand Slam champion and former top-ranked player has been relying on wild cards because she lost her ranking following the doping ban.

In other matches on Sunday, top-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany defeated Timea Babos of Hungary 6-4, 6-2 while defending champion Simona Halep beat Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2.

In the men’s tournament, ninth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium defeated Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-2, 7-6 (8), and Fabio Fognini of Italy beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-4, 6-4 to set up a second-round match against Rafael Nadal.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *