For Maria Sharapova, the comeback honeymoon is over. Close to a month after her smashing return to the sport at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, the Russian tennis star finds herself at the Madrid Open, advancing in the first round to a second-round match against a player that began her career in admiration of Sharapova, but eventually became one of her primary critics in the wake of her tennis ban cut short.

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard has verbally taken the World Tennis Association to task not just for allowing Sharapova to return to the women’s tour after suspension for the use of a WTA-banned substance, but also in inadvertently helping her regain her competitive stand fast by allowing tennis tournaments to give her wildcard entries, like in Stuttgart.

Thus in a hard-fought “grudge match” of sorts, Sharapova’s momentum was stopped by Bouchard in a stunning win.

Some ‘bad blood’

Sharapova’s second round opener in the 2017 Madrid Open, held at the Court Manola Santana, went fast and furious against Eugenie Bouchard. The Russian wasn’t going to let her opponent’s grudge get the better of her right off the bat, with Set 1 lead of 4-2. But a series of errors including six double faults went on to ruin Sharapova’s form, with the Canadian salvaging it 7-5 to close out the opening set.

In the second set Bouchard suddenly seemed to lose steam, allowing Sharapova to rally and take it for 6-2. There was also some psyching-out going on between the competitors, such as when the Canadian returned a powerful backhand from her erstwhile idol with a smile to score.

By the time Set 3 rolled about Bouchard regained her form and powered through a 4-4 break point to humble Sharapova at 6-4. This was her 20th match win.

Broken pedestal

Genie Bouchard’s win against Maria Sharapova ended a drought of victories for the Canadian tennis player, who had been winless in all competitions she entered in the past three and a half months before going into the Madrid Open.

Now at age 23, Bouchard has been struggling with the effects of media attention and fan expectation after she finished the 2014 Season in the Top 10 rankings. Her middling performance after that high has diminished her media label as one of the future stars of the sport.

Although she was inspired to take up competitive tennis by watching Sharapova come out victorious at the 2004 Wimbledon, Bouchard called the Russian a cheat after her positive test in the 2016 Australian Open for a medication she had been taking that was added to the list of banned substances.

She believes the WTA was sending the wrong message to fans by allowing Sharapova to return. Sharapova for her part has declined to comment further.

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