Melbourne – Record-setting world number two Maria Sharapova reached the Australian Open semi-finals for the loss of just nine games as she blitzed fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova on Tuesday.
Sharapova, seeking her fifth Grand Slam title and her second in Melbourne, smashed Makarova 6-2, 6-2 in 1hr 6min to set up a semi-final with China's sixth seed Li Na.
Sharapova, who 'double-bagelled' her first two matches 6-0, 6-0, and then beat Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 and Kirsten Flipkens 6-1, 6-0, betters Monica Seles' Australian Open record of losing only 12 games before the semis.
Despite the scoreline, she insisted it had been close against Makarova, against whom she has never lost in five matches.
“No matter what our record is, we always have close matches,” she said.
“It was quite close in the beginning today, we exchanged breaks of serves, but I think I ended up being the more aggressive player.
“Today was a matter of staying focused because I know how excited she was to play me.”
Sharapova drew first blood when she broke Makarova in the third game of the first set, but Makarova immediately retrieved the break to level at two-all.
That was as close as it got. Makarova, who beat 15-time major champion Serena Williams in the fourth round at the Australian Open last year, was unable to settle, dropping serve again before Sharaporova tore through the remainder of the 31-minute opening set.
The French Open champion took unstoppable momentum into the second set and immediately skipped to a 2-0 lead. A streak of six straight games ended when Makarova finally held serve to get on the scoreboard at 1-2.
Sharapova took a 5-1 lead on the back of powerful serving and her trademark forehand. Makarova offered only token resistance as Sharapova booked her berth against Li, who defeated world number four Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5, 6-3 earlier on Tuesday.
Sharapova leads the head-to-head 8-4 against Li. And she denied she was underdone for the semi-finals after shipping just nine games in five matches.
“I don't want to give my opponents the chance to test me,” she said. “Do I want them to test me? Would I prefer that? Absolutely not.” – Sapa-AFP