There was a lot of hype leading up to yesterday’s second round match between Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and Maria Sharapova of Russia, at the Mutua Madrid Open in Spain.
The hype came from the younger player, Bouchard, who has been quite outspoken about Sharapova being allowed to return to tennis after serving a reduced ban for testing positive for Meldonium (a banned substance), during last year’s Australian Open.
Bouchard made no bones about the fact that Sharapova should be “banned for life”.
So on to the court they stepped – Sharapova having reached the semi-final of the Porsche Open during her first tournament back in April, and Bouchard, who last reached a semi-final in Sydney in January.
Bouchard had a lot to prove. She had never beaten the Russian in their previous four meetings, had to avoid “egg on her face” for voicing her opinion and despite some improvement in her form, has not made a notable impact on the tour, since her 2014 Wimbledon Final appearance.
Sharapova on the other hand, who never appears fazed by anyone’s opinion of her, is most likely working towards a long term plan, that of returning to the Top 10 and winning another Grand Slam, a feat made easier by rival, Serena Williams, who is expecting her first child later this year.
The first set was a mixture of nerves and some sloppy play, especially on Sharapova’s part, who notched up six double faults. Sharapova, despite winning 71% of her first serve points, was made to save seven break points. But it was the Bouchard, who got the edge and closed off the set by coming to the net and slamming a forehand return past the Russian.
The second set was a different story and belonged to a rather relieved looking Sharapova, who only served one double fault.
The third set was a humdinger, with neither player giving the other room. But in the end there had to be a winner, and somehow Bouchard found what she needed to edge past the five-time Grand Slam champion, 7-5 2-6 6-4.
Bouchard celebrated with a “Serena style” leap in the air and then met Sharapova at the net with a stare.
Next up for Bouchard will be the top seed, Angelique Kerber of Germany, who needed three sets to move past Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, 6-2 1-6 7-5.