Eugenie Bouchard will face top seed Angelique Kerber for a place in the quarter-finals of the 2017 Mutua Madrid Open after outlasting rival Maria Sharapova at La Caja Magica on Monday evening (8 May) in a truly absorbing match of the year contender.
Facing the woman whom she labelled a "cheater" last month and stated should not have been permitted to return to tennis after a 15-month ban, Bouchard, certainly the most outspoken of Sharapova's locker room critics, produced a battling display to defeat the five-time Grand Slam champion 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in two hours and 51 minutes.
An intense Sharapova, who would have secured enough ranking points to seal a place in the qualifying draw for Wimbledon with a fifth win since making her competitive comeback at April's Stuttgart Open, demonstrated clear aggression early on and Bouchard was forced to save a break point during her opening service game.
The Russian later saved two of her own and held for a 3-2 lead courtesy of a few impressive winners including a superb running backhand and a precise cross-court forehand.
Bouchard staved off a further break opportunity trailing 0-40 in game number six, yet was unable to get close to a rasping forehand winner down the line. Engineering the chance to break straight back, the 23-year-old spurned two opportunities on her backhand before Sharapova netted to put the contest back on serve. She then won four points in a row after going down 0-30 to hold and tie proceedings.
After a dominant start, Sharapova began to show the sort of rust you might associate with a lengthy absence from the court and a slew of unforced errors led to Bouchard breaking again to win her third game in succession. She failed to serve out the set despite producing a remarkable forehand winner down the line as her opponent broke again to get back to 5-5, but did so at the second time of asking after coming out on top in a marathon game 11.
Bouchard began the second set by holding with a well-timed volley at the net and Sharapova saved a break point in another gruelling exchange. Consecutive holds to love followed before Bouchard inexplicably produced two double faults in a row to concede the break. Leading 4-2 once again, this time Sharapova made no mistake as she held again comfortably and took the second of two set points to draw level and force a decider.
Bouchard roared in defiance after a huge hold at 1-1 that halted Sharapova's momentum and looked to have put herself back in the driving seat by cultivating a 0-40 lead. However, her rival came surging back and won five straight points before wasting three break chances in eerily similar fashion.
Another 0-40 lead incredibly came and went for Bouchard, who did finally break to love only for Sharapova to hit straight back. The world number 60 fought hard to secure another break and maintained her composure in the face of a 40-15 deficit while serving for victory to profit from a couple of sloppy errors and snatch the second of two match points with a cross-court winner.
Any post-contest controversy was then avoided as the duo engaged in a professional - if rather frosty-looking - handshake.