STUTTGART • Maria Sharapova, who reached the semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open yesterday, has hit back at Eugenie Bouchard's "cheater" claims, telling the Canadian tennis player that she is "way above" getting into a slanging match over her controversial comeback from a doping ban.
Bouchard, long seen as the Russian's heir in tennis' marketability stakes, had attacked Sharapova over her return to the professional game from a 15-month suspension, and suggested the former world No. 1 should be kicked out.
But, after seeing off fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 7-5, 6-1 to reach the Stuttgart Open quarter finals on Thursday, 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 .
Many of her rivals claim she is being given an unfair advantage with wild cards to play at the Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome tournaments.
She will learn on May 16 whether she will be given a wild card to play at the French Open, which starts on May 22.
Bouchard said the Women's Tennis Association was sending the wrong message in allowing Sharapova to come back.
"She's a cheater, and I don't think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again," said the world No. 59.
By reaching the semi finals in Stuttgart, Sharapova has already broken into the world's top 400, and is projected to rank 125th if she wins tomorrow's final.
Despite the ongoing off-court controversy, the Russian is cutting an impressive figure on it.
Yesterday, she demolished Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-4 in her quarter-final match.
Meanwhile, Romanian tennis great Ilie Nastase has apologised yesterday for racist comments about Serena Williams, and for a foul-mouthed Fed Cup tirade that saw him banned by the International Tennis Federation.
"My words during the Fed Cup have rightfully caused controversy and upset the audience, the press and, most painfully for me, the tennis world," the two-time Grand Slam winner, 70, said on Facebook.
"I am fully aware that nothing can truly excuse my statements," he said.
"My life remains dedicated to tennis and its audiences, so please accept my apologies, for whatever they may be worth right now."
WTA PORSCHE GP
S-finals, StarHub Ch203, 10pm