‘Cheater’ Sharapova should not play tennis again – Bouchard

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‘Cheater’ Maria Sharapova should not be allowed to play again – Eugenie Bouchard

“Cheat” Maria Sharapova should not have been allowed to play again, says 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard.

Russian Sharapova beat Roberta Vinci on Wednesday at the Stuttgart Open on her return from a 15-month doping ban.

In October, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said Sharapova was not an “intentional doper”.

However, Canadian Bouchard said: “She’s a cheater and I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again.”

Bouchard, 23, now ranked 59th in the world, told TRT World: “I think from the WTA it sends the wrong message to young kids: cheat and we’ll welcome you back with open arms.

“I don’t think that’s right and she’s not someone I can say I look up to any more.

“It’s so unfair to all the other players who do it in the right way and are true.”

Five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova, who was suspended in March 2016 after testing positive for meldonium, was given a wildcard for the tournament.

The 30-year-old has also received wildcards for the tournaments in Madrid and Rome and will find out if she has been given one for the French Open on 16 May – 12 days before the competition.

That decision has been defended by WTA chief Steve Simon, who said it was in keeping with how former dopers were treated in other sports.

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Sharapova faces media after winning return

‘I’d play in the juniors’

Sharapova says she would “play in the juniors” if it meant competing in this year’s French Open and Wimbledon.

She won her first grand slam title at Wimbledon aged 17 in 2004 and won the last of her five major titles at the French Open in 2014.

The Russian does not have a world ranking after her points expired during her suspension and would need to reach the final in Stuttgart to be eligible for French Open qualifying.

Speaking to BBC Sport, former world number one Sharapova said: “If I get the opportunity to be in a draw then I will take it.

“I’m being offered wildcards from tournament directors and I’m accepting them.

“I’m coming with no ranking and I’m not getting a wildcard to receive a trophy or a golden platter. I have to get through the matches and I still have to win them.”

Sharapova capitalises on controversial wildcard

Maria Sharapova<!–

Sharapova would need to reach the final in Stuttgart to be eligible for French Open qualifying

Wednesday’s match was a positive start to the process of rebuilding her world ranking points against Vinci, who is ranked 34th in the world.

Sharapova was understandably rusty but brushed off a nervous start to break at the first opportunity after losing her first service game, showing ominous signs with a string of big winners.

Vinci was then taken to deuce in every subsequent service game until the pressure finally told, with Sharapova taking a 6-5 lead and then serving out the first set.

Sharapova started the second set with another break of serve to win her fourth game in a row and leave Vinci reeling.

The Italian held on to take the set to 4-3 but ultimately the Russian’s superiority showed with a break to love and an easily won final service game.

‘I’ve been waiting for this for a long time’

There was no noticeable bad reception for Sharapova, who hit 11 aces and 39 winners and will now face fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she said. “It’s the best feeling in the world, those first few seconds before you enter the arena.

“I spent a long time without hitting any balls. I went to school, I grew my business and had a normal life. I put the racquet away for a little bit.

“There were a lot of things that I did that I probably would never have done in my twenties.

“I felt I had to grow as a person and I think I’ve done that. But this is what I’ve done for so long. I’m a competitor – that’s when I’m at my best.”

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