MADRID – Maria Sharapova’s reward for advancing to the second round of the Madrid Open on Sunday is a match against Eugenie Bouchard, one of the most outspoken players against the Russian’s return after a doping ban.
Sharapova recovered from a shaky opening to defeat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 in the first round.
Playing in her second tournament since a 15-month doping suspension, Sharapova denied there would be extra motivation to defeat Bouchard after the Canadian previously called her “a cheater” and said she should be banned for life from the sport.
“It’s not the way I go about my job,” the 30-year-old Sharapova said. “I’ve been in the public eye since I was a very young girl. I’ve heard a lot of things. If everything affects you on and off the court, I think that would be a really challenging position to be in. It’s not the way I think. My tennis speaks for itself, and that’s what I focus on.”
Monday’s match against Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist, will be Sharapova’s sixth since getting back on tour after testing positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open. She played her first tournament after the ban in Stuttgart last month, being eliminated in the semifinals by 17th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France.
Bouchard, who on Saturday won her first main-draw match since January, has said Sharapova’s return was “unfair to all the other players who do it the right way.” She said she was hoping to play against the Russian in Madrid.
Sharapova expects to face a difficult opponent regardless of the off-the-court controversy.
“I think in terms of a game style, there’s a little bit of similarities to who I played today: very aggressive, inside the court, takes the ball on the rise, doesn’t give you much time,” Sharapova said. “All the things that hopefully I can improve from today’s match and take it against her.”