Eugenie Bouchard says she felt “inspired” by the unexpected support she got from the locker room before her match with Maria Sharapova, and that is was one of her “prouder matches in the past couple years”.
The Canadian former world No5 was happy to back up her strong comments against Sharapova with victory over her in the Madrid Open second round on Monday night. Bouchard, who called Sharapova a “cheater” that shouldn’t be allowed back in the sport, claimed a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win over the former world No1.
It was the best tennis Bouchard has managed to produce since her breakthrough 2014 season that saw her reach No5 in the world, before suffering a collapse and slipping in the rankings.
“I definitely had some extra motivation going into today,” admitted Bouchard after her win. “Obviously I had never beaten her before (in four matches). 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.”
Bouchard is one of a fairly small group of players who have openly spoken out against Sharapova in light of her failed drugs test and subsequent suspension. The Canadian was the harshest though, saying Sharapova deserves a lifetime ban.
The 23-year-old Bouchard believes many players share her views but simply haven’t said it publicly.
“It’s just some girls in the locker room are coming up to me and really wishing me good luck before matches, which doesn’t normally happen to me. Players I don’t normally speak to is more what I said,” Bouchard said.
“It showed me that most people have my opinion, and they were just maybe scared to speak out. But privately, you know, I’ve gotten a lot of support, so… I was inspired and motivated to play.”
Bouchard and Sharapova battled for two hours and 51 minutes in what was a high-intensity, high-quality affair.
They hit a combined 64 winners – 44 off the Sharapova racquet – and had 36 break points between them.
“It definitely helps when you can back it up,” Bouchard said when asked if she felt she needed to walk the walk, having talked the talk ahead of the match.
“Obviously, there was a lot going on besides tennis in this match, as well. As soon as I stepped on the court, I really just wanted to make it about tennis. We both did that. We just battled our hearts out, I think.”
Bouchard had lost five tour-level first rounds in a row heading into Madrid and her victory over Alize Cornet in the first round was her first (tour-level) since the Australian Open in January.
She is ranked No60 in the world and was bageled in the quarter-finals of an ITF tournament last month.
Her form against Sharapova on Monday was a far cry from what we’ve seen from her for the past two years.
“Overall, with the whole mental aspect, just fighting and playing almost a three-hour match, the physical battles, I mean, she’s playing really well right now. Everything together, for sure, it’s one of my more prouder matches in the past couple years,” she said of her performance against Sharapova.
Bouchard next faces German top seed Angelique Kerber in the third round on Wednesday. Players often suffer letdowns after pulling off massive wins and the Canadian is hoping she avoids that.
“Yeah, 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,” she said.
“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, kind of just show what I can do.
“Yeah, just go for it.”
Bouchard was seen mouthing “just go for it” before her last serve of the match against Sharapova. She did. And it paid off. She’ll need a lot more of that against Kerber.