Tennis: Maria Sharapova survives Lucic-Baroni test to set up Eugenie Bouchard showdown

 Russia's Maria Sharapova in action against Croatia's Mirjana Lukic-Baroni in Madrid on May 7, 2017.
Russia's Maria Sharapova in action against Croatia's Mirjana Lukic-Baroni in Madrid on May 7, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

MADRID (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova set up an intriguing second-round clash with outspoken critic Eugenie Bouchard in the Madrid Open by seeing off Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 on Sunday.

A sparse crowd turned out to see the five-times Grand Slam winner begin her second tournament after completing a 15-month suspension for testing positive for banned substance meldonium and the Russian was made to work for the win by the world No. 20.

Sharapova, winner of the tournament in 2014 and a semi-finalist last week in the Stuttgart Grand Prix, regained composure to take the second before blitzing the tired Lucic-Baroni in the third.

Sharapova will meet Bouchard, ranked No. 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.

 

Bouchard, 23, labelled Sharapova a "cheater" in an interview with Istanbul-based TRT World in April and said the WTA was setting a bad example to youngsters in letting her back into the sport.