Sharapova reaches Aussie semis, will face Li
MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova continued her dominating form at the Australian Open with a straight-set win over Ekatrina Makarova on Tuesday, conceding only nine games in five matches en route to a semifinal against Li Na.
No. 2-ranked Sharapova had a 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal win over fellow Russian Makarova at Rod Laver Arena and has spent just 5 hours, 15 minutes on court so far in the tournament. That’s an unprecedented run in Australia.
“To be honest, those are not the stats you want to be known for,” Sharapova said, adding that she was more concerned about adding to her four Grand Slam titles and had spent plenty of time on the practice court.
After opening with a pair of 6-0, 6-0 wins, Sharapova trounced seven-time major winner Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in the third round and Belgian Kristen Flipkens 6-0, 6-1 in the fourth. Nobody has conceded fewer games on the way to the semifinals at the Australian Open.
Sharapova lost in the final here last year before winning the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam of the majors.
She is playing her first tournament of the 2013, after withdrawing from the Brisbane International earlier this month with a sore right collarbone. She hasn’t shown any signs of injury so far at Melbourne Park. It was the second year in succession that Makarova has lost to Sharapova after knocking out a seeded player in the third round. Last year, she ousted Serena Williams in the fourth round, on the weekend it was No. 5-ranked Angelique Kerber.
Sixth-seeded Li didn’t overly tax herself, either, in the quarterfinals.
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The 30-year-old Li advanced to her third semifinal in four years at Melbourne Park with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Agnieszka Radwanska, ending the Pole’s 13-match winning streak.
“She’s a tough player. I was feeling today against a wall,” said Li, who lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters only months before her Grand Slam breakthrough at the French Open.
The quarterfinals on the other half of the women’s draw will be Wednesday, with American teenager Sloane Stephens against Serena Williams, who is aiming for a third consecutive major title, and defending champion Victoria Azarenka against two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Stephens has heard a lot of advice from Williams. Pointers on her groundstrokes, and even on her grunts.
It’s been mostly gentle encouragement, occasionally spiced with headline-making comments from Williams, who has predicted the 19-year-old American will one day top the women’s rankings.
As Stephens learned earlier this month, though, it’s one thing to play with Williams, another to play against the 15-time Grand Slam champion.
With a comeback 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win over Bojana Jovanovski on Monday, Stephens qualified for her first quarterfinal at a major tournament. Williams has already played at that level 34 times.
“It will be tough, obviously. It’s quarters of a Grand Slam,” Stephens said. “There won’t be that, like, first time, ‘Oh, my God, I’m playing Serena.’ That’s kind of out of the window now. So that’s good.”
Williams and defending champion Azarenka advanced Monday, losing just four games between them against Russian rivals. Williams beat No. 14 Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0, and Azarenka defeated Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.