Stuttgart – Maria Sharapova hit back at Eugenie Bouchard’s “cheater” claims on Thursday, telling the Canadian that she is “way above” getting into a slanging match over her controversial comeback.
Bouchard, long seen as the Russian’s heir in the sport’s marketability stakes, had attacked Sharapova over her return from a drugs ban and suggested the former world number one should be kicked out of tennis for life.
But after reaching the Stuttgart quarter-finals on Thursday on her return from a 15-month suspension, Sharapova attempted to put Bouchard in her place.
“I don’t have anything to say – I am way above that,” she told reporters when asked to respond to Bouchard’s comments after seeing off fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 7-5, 6-1 in Stuttgart.
Bouchard said the Women’s Tennis Association was sending the wrong message in allowing the five-time Grand Slam-winner to come back from her ban.
Sharapova – the world’s highest-paid female athlete for more than a decade until last year, according to Forbes – won her first match on Wednesday in the German city on her comeback after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
“I don’t think that’s right. She’s a cheater and so to me, I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again,” Canada’s Bouchard, the world number 59, told TRT World in Istanbul where she had been playing a WTA event.
“It’s so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way and are true. So I just think the WTA sends the wrong message to young kids: you know, cheat and we’ll welcome you back with open arms.
“So I don’t think that’s right. She’s not someone I can say I look up to any more because it’s definitely ruined it for me a little bit.”
Sharapova, 30, has pleaded that she had been taking meldonium for medical reasons for 10 years and didn’t know it had been added to the list of banned substances last year.
Her return on a wildcard in Stuttgart, where she beat Roberta Vinci on Wednesday, has proved divisive with both criticism and support from her fellow players.
Sharapova will learn on May 16 whether she will receive a wildcard for the French Open, the year’s second Grand Slam which she won in 2012 and 2014.