An inspired Eugenie Bouchard, the most vocal critic of Maria Sharapova (2014 Madrid Open winner), defeated the Russian for the first time in their fifth meeting and backed her verbal volleys with on court superiority yesterday.
Sharapova, victor of five Grand Slams, tested positive for the banned heart medication meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
Bouchard, one of the most outspoken players against Sharapova's return to tennis following a doping ban, jumped up and down after converting her second match point in a match that was pulsating enough to be mistaken for a final. And I also received a lot of messages from people in the world of tennis she said.
"I would be anxious about myself if I sat here and said I'm pretty happy with losing a tennis match, no matter who I face, no matter what round it is, whether it's the first round or final of a Grand Slam, " she said after losing to Bouchard.
"Some girls in the locker room were coming up to me and really wishing me good luck which doesn't normally happen", added the world number 60.
While so many people - including Sharapova's sponsor Nike - are willing to forgive and forget her drug offence, it was refreshing to hear Bouchard speak out.
"I am a big competitor".
Tennis - WTA - Madrid Open - Maria Sharapova of Russian Federation v Eugenie Bouchard of Canada - Madrid, Spain - 8/5/17 - Bouchard (L) shakes hands with Sharapova after the match.
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"I want you to be the hunter", coach Sven Groeneveld told Sharapova and Bouchard was soon being pulled apart as Sharapova reeled off four straight games to take the second set 6-2.
Similarly, against Bouchard, she let game points during a 4-2 lead in the first set slip away.
Meanwhile, Bouchard's friend and sometime mixed doubles partner Nick Kyrgios made it through the first round with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 victory over Marcos Baghdatis. I definitely had some extra motivation going into today.
But her extra determination to beat Sharapova was on display as she managed to win a gruelling 70-minute first set against the 30-year-old Russian by clinching the 12th game.
"One of the sport's most famous figures, and by far its most controversial, was back in the sceptical public eye after the rancour that followed her stunning revelation of a failed drug test previous year and the troubling sense that even now she feels no shame about meldonium being found in her system". "Obviously I had never beaten her before. I think today I was very good, maybe the best way that I've been this year so far", she said of her attitude. Angelique Kerber had to fight back to beat Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 after the Czech served for the match at 5-4 in the third set.
Sharapova did not address Bouchard's comments after Monday's play, however.
"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. Bouchard's pressure paid off when she broke to love to go 4-3 up, only for Sharapova to hit instantly back. The five-time Grand Slam champion and former top-ranked player will know on May 16 if she will be able to compete on a wild card in the French Open, which starts May 22.
"I was happy with the way I changed things around in the second, stepped in, was a little bit more aggressive inside the baseline".