Eugenie Bouchard beats Maria Sharapova in Madrid Open grudge match after 'cheater' claim
Eugenie Bouchard beat Maria Sharapova 7-5 2-6 6-4 at the Madrid Open in a much-anticipated grudge match that more than lived up to its billing.
A last-32 match at the Madrid Open wouldn’t normally grab the headlines, but this was no ordinary match.
The eyes of the tennis world were on La Caja Magica as Bouchard took on the player that she recently claimed should no longer have a place in the sport.
"She is a cheater and so to me, I don't think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again," was Bouchard's assessment of Sharapova's return to the sport following a drugs ban last month.
"It's so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way and are true," she added. "I think from the WTA it sends the wrong message to young kids: Cheat and we'll welcome you back with open arms."
Bouchard’s comments riled Sharapova, who continues to protest that her positive test for meldonium in 2016 was the result of a logistical error and not intentional cheating.
But that was the context when the two players took to the court in Madrid for the most anticipated match of the clay court season so far.
And Bouchard’s extra motivation was clear right from the off as the 23-year-old Canadian played by far her best tennis of the season to take a thrilling first set 7-5.
Sharapova responded in typical fashion, overpowering her opponent in the second set to level things up 5-7 6-2.
But Bouchard, who was the picture of intensity throughout, upped her game another level in the decider to take a close-to three-hour epic as she held serve to win the final set 6-4.
The handshake at the net was lukewarm at best, but the smile on Bouchard’s face as she saluted the applauding crowd showed that this meant much more than just a round-of-32 win.