Serena Williams served up a glamour Australian Open quarter-final against arch-rival Maria Sharapova on Sunday as she looks to extend her iron grip over the Russian star.
The world number one and defending champion smacked down Margarita Gasparyan 6-2, 6-1 in just 55 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to ensure the mouth-watering showdown.
Sharapova holds the dismal record of never beating her nemesis in 17 contests dating back 12 years. The last time she managed a win was at the WTA Tour Championships in 2004.
She now has another chance to finally get the monkey off her back after coming through a 7-5, 7-5 thriller against fast-rising Swiss teen Belinda Bencic.
The Russian world number five, who lost to Serena in the Melbourne Park final last year, said she was always looking to improve and used the losses against the mighty American to examine what she could do better.
“There is no reason I shouldn’t be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round,” said Sharapova. “It’s only going to be tougher, especially against Serena.”
A nonchalant Serena, who rarely looks beyond her next opponent in the draw, claimed she didn’t know Sharapova was now in the way of her bid to win a 22nd Grand Slam and equally Steffi Graf’s Open-era record. “That will be a good match, I have nothing to lose,” she said. “We are both doing the best we can. It’ll be fun.”
Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska will face Spain’s 10th seed Carla Suarez in the other quarter-final on Tuesday after both players came through testing three-setters.
Radwanska was pushed to the limit by unseeded Anna-Lena Friedsam, winning 6-7 (6/8), 6-1, 7-5 with the German, who struggled with injury and cramp.
Suarez ended the dream run of local hope Daria Gavrilova 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 to make the last eight for the first time since her tournament debut in 2009.
Djokovic wobbles into quarters
Novak Djokovic called his win over Gilles Simon a ‘match to forget’ after he clocked up an embarrassing 100 unforced errors before scraping into his 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open on Sunday.
The 10-time major champion battled for four hours, 32 minutes before prevailing 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and will now face Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the last-eight.
“Actually, it gives me great joy to know that I can’t get worse than that, than what I played today,” he smiled. “I honestly didn’t expect to make this many unforced errors. It’s a match to forget for me.”
In contrast, seventh-seeded Nishikori produced his best tennis of the tournament to breeze past former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 and into the quarter-finals in just over two hours.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer swept into the quarter-finals in just 88 minutes with a quick-fire win over Belgian David Goffin.
The Swiss third seed powered past the 15th-seeded Goffin, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 and will face Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the last-eight.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2016.