Sharapova cruises into quarter-finals

Maria Sharapova’s career always seems in a state of conflict between brilliance and injury. Happily it is the former that has been in evidence at the Australian Open, where the Russian advanced to the quarter-finals in imperious style.

In her first four matches in Melbourne, Sharapova has conceded just five games. Her latest victory, a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of the Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, proved that the number 2 ranked Sharapova is playing as well as at any time in her career. Sharapova started the tournament with successive 6-0, 6-0 victories, before making Venus Williams look very ordinary in the third round.

"I'm certainly happy to be playing this well but it only gets tougher from here," she said. Ever the perfectionist, she wasn’t entirely happy with her performance against Flipkens, presumably miffed at that one game she let slip. "I didn't start the match really great," she said. "I was facing a different type of opponent today and I was making a few more mistakes than I would have liked in the beginning. But after I held at 2-1, I really started making her play a little bit, and I carried that throughout the match."

Sharapova last won the Australian title in 2008. "The year that I won here I don't think there were many games that I lost, but I don't think it was five or six," she said. On that occasion she did it the hard way, beating three former world number ones on her way to the title. "The toughest draw in my career," she recalled.

She plays fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the quarter-finals. Sharapova beat her in Melbourne on the way to the final last year, but Makarova said she is better prepared this time. "I really want to play against Maria," she said. "Now I'm pretty confident and I like my game. I think I'll be ready.”

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