The 30-year-old Russian will meet Bouchard, ranked 60, on Monday in an eagerly anticipated game due to the Canadian's fierce criticism of the WTA's decision to allow the Russian to return to competitive tennis.
"She's a cheater and so to me", Bouchard said last month, before Sharapova's return from her 15-month ban for using Meldonium in last year's Australian Open.
Sharapova, who has slipped to No. 258 in the world, returned to the Tour in late April by getting a wild-card entry into the Stuttgart Open. "It's very meaningful to me. I was missing a lot some shots I should maybe not miss against Timea.I think she's a very good player, and she used that moments, especially the important ones, to advance in the game". "Or else I think it's easy to lose concentration".
"And like this one, it was extremely tough, not many rallies, she forced me to come out with some of my good tennis and I really had to dig deep".
Sharapova is -435 to win the first set with Bouchard at +279. After parting ways with Barbora Strycova, she has teamed up with Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova hoping for a change of fortune.The two have a chance to test their chemistry first on clay in the Madrid Open this week.
Sharapova expects to face a hard opponent regardless of the off-the-court controversy. Sharapova's opener was against one of the form players of the season, the resurgent 35-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who was up to a career-high ranking inside the top 20 for the first time in nearly 20 years on the professional tour. Bouchard has won only one set in the four matches. Only recently she was quoted as saying, "I have already played a Grand Slam final (mixed-doubles at the Australian Open), a title (in Brisbane), some finals (Miami, Sydney) and a bunch of semi-finals".
epa05947260 Canada's Eugenie Bouchard in action against France's Alize Cornet during their first round match of the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, 06 May 2017. "I mean, especially after the last match I played, I'm really happy about the way I played from the beginning".
And there was no stopping the five-time Grand Slam champion in the decider as she dismissed a dispirited Lucic-Baroni for the loss of just 11 points. "I don't think that's right and it's definitely not someone I can say I look up to anymore because it's definitely ruined it for me a little bit". When you are out of the game for a long time you just want to play and want to compete and find yourself in different situations of the match.
Caroline Wozniacki had a tougher time, but the 10th seed eventually overcame Monica Niculescu 7-5, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 after almost three-and-a-half hours on court.