It was billed as tennis’s grudge match of the year. And it certainly lived up to its billing.
After calling Maria Sharapova a “cheater” only two weeks ago, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard met the Russian star in the second round of the Madrid Open on Tuesday morning (AEST).
And Bouchard let her tennis do the talking in what has been a bitter war of words between the pair.
Shortly after Sharapova’s return in late April after a 15-month ban for testing positive to meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, Bouchard slammed Sharapova as a “cheater”, said she should have received a lifetime ban and that she’d lost all respect for the Russian.
After Bouchard’s 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win over Sharapova in Madrid, the feisty Canadian referred to Sharapova’s return as a “so-called comeback”, and posted a victory picture to Instagram simply with the words: “How bow dah?!”
A post shared by Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) on
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 was actually quite inspired before the match because I had a lot of players coming up to me privately wishing me good luck.
“I wanted to do it for myself, but also all these people.
The two exchanged a frosty handshake at the end of a thrilling encounter of almost three hours, as Bouchard registered just her second WTA Tour win since the Australian Open in January.
“She said: ‘Well played’,” Bouchard replied when asked what words were exchanged at the net.
“I think she’s been playing really well in her so-called comeback, if you want to call it that.”
The highlights and Bouchard’s post-match comments
Sharapova said she was “above” responding to Bouchard’s jibes when reaching the semi-finals in her first tournament since her ban expired amid a media circus in Stuttgart in late April.
At the time, Bouchard said in relation to Sharapova: “She’s a cheater and … I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again,” she said.
“It’s so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way and are true. I think from the WTA it sends the wrong message to young kids: ‘cheat and we’ll welcome you back with open arms’.
“I don’t think that’s right and (Sharapova is) definitely not someone I can say I look up to anymore.”