By Ros Satar
- Genie Bouchard def. Maria Sharapova [WC] 7-5 2-6 6-4
- Sets up clash with top seed Angie Kerber where she leads 3-2
MADRID, SPAIN – Grudge match, popcorn match, call it what you will but in what was probably the match of the tournament so far, Genie Bouchard edged out Maria Sharapova to set up a third round clash with top seed Angelique Kerber.
Genie Bouchard def. Maria Sharapova [WC] 7-5 2-6 6-4
The scene had been set couple of weeks ago when Genie Bouchard weighed in on the whole should-she-shouldn’t-she debate that has been raging around Maria Sharapova since her return at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix was announced.
In what seemed like ironic timing, Bouchard (who crashed out in the first round of Istanbul that same week) slammed Sharapova as a ‘cheater’ declaring she should never had been allowed back.
Ever since the Madrid draw came out, this was the match-up people looked forward to, and they were not disappointed. If Sharapova’s comeback in Stuttgart seemed charmed up until the point she came up against another critic Kristina Mladenovic.
The first set was a tense affair, with the pair trading breaks twice before Bouchard edged the advantage she needed to serve out the for the first time. The second set saw Sharapova similarly put herself in a good position with a 4-2 lead, and this time there was no relinquishing that lead, levelling the match.
There was more drama to come in the decider with break points coming and going for the pair, and neither able to convert. Bouchard was the first to push ahead, breaking a weary looking Sharapova to love, only to be broken straight back.
As in the first set, the final advantage settled with the Canadian – who brought some of her best tennis to the court on Monday night, scoring the victory with her second match point.
The handshake was all business, as you might expect from the five-time Grand Slam champion who has never made any secret of the fact she is not here to make friends.
‘Players coming up to me privately wishing me good luck’
Ironically Bouchard took a similar hard line as she reached her first Grand Slam final, only to be completely schooled by the much-missed Petra Kvitova. There she had almost boasted in her pre-final press conference where she claimed she had not joined the tour to make friends.
She said, after the match: “I definitely had some extra motivation going into today. Obviously I had never beaten her before. Also given the circumstances…
“I was actually quite inspired before the match because I had a lot of players coming up to me privately wishing me good luck, players I don’t normally speak to, getting a lot of texts from people in the tennis world that were just rooting for me.
“So I wanted to do it for myself, but also all these people. I really felt support. It showed me that most people have my opinion, and they were just maybe scared to speak out.”
Bouchard must now fancy her chances against Kerber who made things hard for herself in her opener against Katerina Siniakova.
Bouchard leads Kerber 3-2 in their head to head, but the last encounter at the Rio Olympics 2016 went Kerber’s way in straight sets. There can often be huge letdowns after such a big win, which she acknowledged with a rueful smile.
Bouchard said: “That’s a very valid point. I want to maybe rest my brain a little bit, not think about it too much for tomorrow. I have the day off, which is good.
“I want to go for it. I’m the underdog, by far. It’s nice to have this position these past couple years. So I want to at least take advantage of that, just go for it, play good tennis, build on this, and enjoy it, just show what I can do.”
Bouchard and Kerber are likely to be scheduled on Wednesday.
Featured Image Credit: Jimmie 48 Tennis Photography
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