‘Players scared to criticise Sharapova’

FROSTY MATCH: Winner in three sets Eugenie Bouchard, of Canada, right, with Maria Sharapova, of Russia, after their thrilling, nearly three-hour Mutua Madrid Open match on Monday

Eugenie Bouchard claimed plenty of other players on the WTA Tour shared her outspoken views on Maria Sharapova’s return from a 15-month doping ban, but were too scared to speak out.

Bouchard beat Sharapova for the first time in five meetings in the second round of the Madrid Open on Monday, 7-5 2-6 6-4, a week after labelling the Russian a cheater.

The Canadian also said Sharapova should have been banned for life after testing positive for Meldonium at the 2015 Australian Open rather than welcomed back with a series of wildcards for big events.

“I definitely had some extra motivation going into today,” Bouchard said.

“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.

“I wanted to do it for myself, but also all these people. “It showed me that most people have my opinion, and they were just maybe scared to speak out, but privately I’ve gotten a lot of support, so I was inspired and motivated to play.”

The two exchanged a frosty handshake at the end of a thrilling nearly three-hour long encounter 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.”

Sharapova said she was above responding to Bouchard’s jibes when reaching the semifinals in her first tournament since her ban expired amid a media circus in Stuttgart last week.

She said the extra attention caused by the bad blood between her and Bouchard had not affected her performance.

“I’ve been part of this game for many years,” Sharapova said.

“I know what the drill is. I know the excitement. I know there’s always a lot of talk and buzz, matchups, rivalries. It’s all part of the game.”

Sharapova insisted there was no extra disappointment on her part for having lost to Bouchard.

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