Published: Wed, May 10, 2017
Sport | By Fredrick Flores

'Players I don't normally speak to were rooting for me' -- Bouchard

'Players I don't normally speak to were rooting for me' -- Bouchard

Sharapova will more than likely meet Bouchard again, and have another shot at beating the Canadian who wanted her banned for life for doping a year ago and openly called her a cheater.

With breaks exchanged in the first set, Bouchard looked to have blown a huge chance in the 11th game when she missed a forehand into open court with Sharapova stranded. The Canadian, now ranked 60, prefers to see herself as the underdog despite the fact that she owns a 3-2 lifetime record over the German.

In a tense game near the end of the first set, Sharapova was frustrated after Bouchard won a point with a ball that changed directions from a net cord. "I know what the drill is", she said. "And I think she's been playing really well in her so-called comeback, if you want to call it that". But Bouchard's steady pressure paid off when she broke to love to go 4-3 up, only for Sharapova to hit instantly back. "That's what's going to win me more tournaments and more Grand Slams", she concluded. As soon as I stepped on the court, I really just wanted to make it about tennis.

Bouchard, who decided she wanted to become a tennis player when she watched Sharapova win Wimbledon in 2004, was also critical of the women's Tour.

Bouchard has been unseeded at the tournament and Sharapova on the other hand was given a wildcard.

Bouchard also hinted that many other players on the circuit shared her view - judging by the pre-match encouragement she had received - but were too "scared" to voice their dismay.

"I feel like it's still a learning experience, and it's still just getting back in the groove and understanding what I need to work on and improve, " she said.

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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.

But with her trademark fighting spirit in tow, Sharapova refused to go down quietly, breaking back nearly immediately to draw level at four-games-all with two hours and 38 minutes on the clock.

"She's a cheater and I don't think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again", Bouchard told Turkish broadcaster TRT World on April 25, the day before Sharapova made a highly-anticipated comeback to tennis at an event in Stuttgart, Germany, where she would eventually reach the semifinals. The screaming and jumping up and down, at the end of the match, seemed like a validation of how much this win meant for her, and her supporters. "All the things that hopefully I can improve from today's match and take it against her".

Bouchard converted her second match point with a searing crosscourt forehand victor to close the books on her biggest win of the season.

When so many people are willing to easily forgive and forget drug use in sports - or wonder why they even bother testing anymore - I always think back to the words in a 2005 column former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound wrote for the Montreal Gazette.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova suffered a surprise defeat, with the Czech player losing 6-3, 6-3 to Anastasija Sevastova of Lativa.

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