Who's afraid of Maria?

Sports | 10 May 2017

Eugenie Bouchard claimed plenty of other players on the WTA Tour share her outspoken views on Maria Sharapova's return from an 15-month doping ban, but are too "scared" to speak out.

Bouchard beat Sharapova for the first time in five meetings in the second round of the Madrid Open 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, a week after labelling the Russian "a cheater."

The Canadian also claimed Sharapova should have been banned for life after testing positive for meldonium at the 2015 Australian Open rather than welcomed back with a series of wildcards for big events.

"I definitely had some extra motivation," said Bouchard. "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. I wanted to do it for myself, but also all these people.

"It showed me that most people have my opinion, and they were just maybe scared to speak out, but privately I've gotten a lot of support, so I was inspired and motivated to play."

The two exchanged a frosty handshake at the end of a nearly three-hour long match as Bouchard registered just her second Tour win since the Australian Open in January.

"She said: 'Well played,'" Bouchard replied when asked what words were exchanged at the net.

"I think she's been playing really well in her so-called comeback, if you want to call it that."

Sharapova said the previous week in Stuttgart that she was "above" responding to Bouchard's jibes during her first tournament since her ban expired.

And she claimed the extra attention caused by the bad blood between her and Bouchard had not affected her performance. "I've been part of this game for many years," said Sharapova. "I know what the drill is. I know the excitement. I know there's always a lot of talk and buzz, matchups, rivalries. It's all part of the game."

Sharapova believes she will once again rise to the top.


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