Eugenie Bouchard has made absolutely no secret of what she thinks of Maria Sharapova in the previous weeks.
Sharapova made her return last month, after a 15 month doping ban, at the Stuttgart Open, where she made it to the semi-finals.
Upon her return, Bouchard, in a scathing interview, branded Sharapova a ‘cheat‘ and said she should ‘never be allowed to play tennis again’. She then made a sweet point over her rival with an epic 3 set, 3 hour, victory at the Madrid Open’s second round stage. Evidently this was a tie in which the words exchanged reflected their desire to win this game.
The Russian right hander, who’s suspension came in March 2015 after a highly publicised admittance of using the drug meldonium, had thus far maintained a reserved standpoint on her past and her return. Even when on the sidelines through suspension, she made no attempt to pierce the media with tales of woe and bemoaning injustice.
Instead, she has waited patiently until she was allowed to return.
She gained wildcard entries to tournaments in Stuttgart, Madrid, and Rome and was looking for another to gain entry into the first Grand Slam of the year, the French Open.
Against Bouchard, she looked in good form. Her speed across court was steady, and her return strokes were outstanding; striking 44 winners in all. However, Sharapova was caught out by an in form Bouchard in areas, particularly at the net, where her lack of competitive play became obvious. She also made 49 unforced errors on the court.
Nonetheless, this is an encouraging return for the 30-year-old, who can be quietly confident of gaining wildcard entries at the French Open, and even Wimbledon.
As for Bouchard, she is now experiencing a purple patch having made first round exits at India Wells, the Miami Masters and, most recently, the Istanbul Open. She must now face off against number 1 seed Angelique Kerber.
Bouchard’s words to the press cannot go without a mention though. A 3 man panel at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who adjudicated Sharapova’s drugs charges found her to be using meldonium for health reasons and not to gain advantage over the rest of the field.
Only recently was meldonium added to WADA’s list of banned substances, thereby making Sharapova a user, but not a cheat.
Bouchard insists that Sharapova’s return is setting the wrong example to children, stating “It sends the wrong message. It says ‘cheat, and we’ll welcome you back with open arms'”.
Such a statement is so one-dimensional of Bouchard, who secured a first win over her former idol.
Sharapova’s banning came in the aftermath of her own public admittance of her drug usage, and that she indeed ‘did the time for doing the crime’. She has made no attempt to hide what she has done, only justifying it by arguing that she took it for health reasons, a justification with which the CAS concurred.
Moving forward, Sharapova and Bouchard are now engulfed in a bitter rivalry over Sharapova’s past. Bouchard’s words will now be echoed with every encounter the pair face with each other.