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By Chris Oddo | Monday May 8, 2017

Eugenie Bouchard said she’d be extra motivated to face Maria Sharapova in second-round action at the Mutua Madrid Open on Monday.

She wasn’t lying.

The Canadian went toe-to-toe with the Russian and eventually wiggled past her for a satisfying 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 victory to book a third-round battle with top-seeded Angelique Kerber.

It was Bouchard’s first victory over Sharapova in five lifetime matches.

“Each point was a battle from the first point,” Bouchard said. “It was really a fight. I'm just proud that I came out stronger in the end and held it together in the third set.”

The contest was highly anticipated due to the fact that Bouchard had spoken out harshly against Sharapova’s return in a recent interview in Istanbul, calling the five-time major champion a cheater and saying that she should not be allowed back in the game. The Canadian did not back down from those comments on Saturday in Madrid after she defeated Alizé Cornet in her first-round match, and added that she would have extra motivation to face Sharapova..

“It’s my personal opinion,” she told reporters. “I’ve always played true my whole career.”

Afterwards a satisfied Bouchard elaborated further, and added that she had received a surprising amount of support from peers in the locker room.

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

On court there really weren’t any signs of animosity between the two, just hard-nosed attacking tennis and world-class returning.

Sharapova showed good form in her 2017 season debut in Stuttgart last week, but fell in the semifinals to Kristina Mladenovic, another player who had made headlines in the past by being vehemently opposed to Sharapova’s return to tennis after a doping ban.

The Russian defeated No.17-seeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on Sunday in three sets, but was unable to capitalize on her opportunities against an energized Bouchard this evening.

She expressed disappointment in not being able to manage a victory, and added that she did not get caught up in any of the pre-match hype that was heightened by Bouchard’s comments.

“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, news. It's all part of the game. But at the end of the day, it's just two athletes competing against each other, and I'm one of them. That's how I treat this game.”

She added: “What you work for so many hours every single day is to be on the winning end of matches. Today was just not that day. Of course, I'm disappointed. That's what's going to make me a better player. That's what's going to win me more tournaments and more Grand Slams.”

There were a total of 36 break point opportunities in the match, including 15 in the first set, won by Bouchard after the Canadian rallied from 4-2 down to win five of the last six games, and 17 in the final set, which saw each player walk the proverbial tightrope in the middle of the set.

A three-game stretch early in the third set saw each player dig out of 0-40 holes to hold. Sharapova saved five break points in the fifth game to nudge in front for 3-2, capping a particularly intense segment of the contest, but Bouchard answered with a hold and then broke for 4-3.

At the time it seemed like it might be pivotal, but Sharapova broke back immediately for 4-all.

The servers’ struggles continued in the next game as Bouchard broke when a Sharapova crosscourt backhand sailed just wide to give herself a shot to serve for the match.

It should be mentioned that in spite of all the break points over the course of this two-hour and 51-minute affair, the quality of tennis was extremely high. There was great defense, deep penetrating groundstrokes and plenty of grace under pressure in difficult situations by both.

In the final game Bouchard earned a match point but lost the handle on a rollicking point when Sharapova’s backhand clipped the tape and lured Bouchard into the net. Based on the long run she had to make to get to the ball, the Canadian hit a strong forehand to the open court but Sharapova was able to track it down and put Bouchard on defense by throwing up a lob.

Bouchard got the lob back but Sharapova ripped a forehand winner to survive.

But the Russian would not survive for long.

Bouchard converted her second match point with a searing crosscourt forehand winner to close the books on her biggest win of the season.

The Canadian improves to 10-8 lifetime in three-set matches on clay, while Sharapova drops to a still very impressive 42-9.

Bouchard owns a respectable 4-6 lifetime record against the WTA’s Top 10 on clay, and two of those wins have come against her Kerber (2014 Roland Garros, 2016 Rome). The Canadian, currently ranked 60, prefers to see herself as the underdog despite the fact that she owns a 3-2 lifetime record over the German.

"I want to go for it. I'm the underdog, by far," she said. "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, kind of just show what I can do."


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