Sharapova sets up mouth-watering match with Bouchard
Maria Sharapova set up an intriguing second-round clash with Eugenie Bouchard at the Madrid Open after beating Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 yesterday.
Bouchard called the Russian "a cheater" last week and suggested she should have been banned for life - rather than 15 months - after testing positive for meldonium at the 2015 Australian Open.
The Canadian said she would have "a bit more motivation" against her former idol Sharapova after registering a first win on the WTA Tour since January against Alize Cornet on Saturday to set up the grudge match.
Despite the controversy surrounding the decision to hand her a wildcard, Sharapova was given a warm reception at the tournament.
"My goal here is to play as many matches as I can," said Sharapova, 30, whose immediate return after her ban has gone down badly with some of her fellow players.
"When you're out of the game for a long time, you just want to play as many games as possible."
After reaching the semi-finals on her return from her doping ban last week in Stuttgart, Sharapova showed impressive levels of fitness to dig deep after a tough couple of opening sets against world No. 20 Lucic-Baroni.
There were four breaks of serve in the opening six games, but Lucic-Baroni eventually took the first set.
Sharapova bounced back at the start of a tough second set that lasted over an hour by moving 4-1 in front. But Lucic-Baroni held off four set points and then broke back for 5-4.
The Croatian's good work was undone, though, by a sloppy service game as Sharapova broke once more to level at one-set all.
There was no stopping the former world No. 1 in the decider as she dismissed a dispirited Lucic-Baroni.
Meanwhile, world No. 2 Angelique Kerber eased into round two with a convincing 6-4, 6-2 win over Hungary's Timea Babos.
Kristina Mladenovic - another fierce critic of the Russian - is also through after Ana Konjuh retired, while eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova cruised past Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 6-3. - AFP