MADRID – To Maria Sharapova, the most disappointing part of leaving the Madrid Open was doing so in the second round.
Not losing to arch critic Eugenie Bouchard.
Sharapova will more than likely meet Bouchard again, and have another shot at beating the Canadian who wanted her banned for life for doping last year and openly called her a cheater.
More important for Sharapova for now was tournament play, winning matches, getting match fit and her ranking up to where it was before her 15-month ban.
Sharapova's ranking rose from nothing to 258 after reaching the semifinals in Stuttgart two weeks ago, in her first tournament after her ban.
Going only two rounds in Madrid, where she won in 2014, will bump her up into only the low 200s.
Her aim is to quickly lift her ranking so it's good enough to automatically qualify for main tour events, to at least 150, which would get her in the French Open this month.
That would mitigate her reliability on wild cards that a lot of her fellow tour players have opposed. The players believe Sharapova, after doping, should have gone through qualifying, worked her way back from the bottom instead of receiving free passes into main draws.
She has declined to enter that debate.
Like at Stuttgart and Madrid, where she was a former champion, Sharapova has a wild card into the Italian Open next week. Rome was the first to offer her a wild card while she was suspended, and the three-time champion (2011, 2012, 2015) was grateful.
Her effort to automatically qualify for the French Open could become moot next week when organizers announce whether they will give one to Sharapova, the champion at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.
In the meantime, losing in the second round at Madrid stung.
"I would be worried about myself if I sat here and said I'm pretty happy with losing a tennis match, no matter who I face, no matter what round it is, whether it's the first round or final of a Grand Slam," she said on Monday after losing to Bouchard.
"I'm a big competitor. What you work for for so many hours every single day is to be on the winning end of matches. Of course I'm disappointed. That's what's going to make me a better player. That's what's going to win me more tournaments and more Grand Slams."
Sharapova said she still needed to regain the confidence for critical points in a match.
"There's no way to train but be a part of it," she said. "To find myself in those situations, come up with the goods ..."
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