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TENNIS > Sharapova ready for Aussie Open quarterfinals

MELBOURNE - The Associated Press

Russia’s Sharapova manages to be among four making through quarterfinals at the Aussie Open. ‘It only gets tougher,’ Sharapova says

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Maria Sharapova signs autographs after winning her 4th round match against Flipkens of Belgium 
at the Australian Open tournament. EPA photo

Maria Sharapova signs autographs after winning her 4th round match against Flipkens of Belgium at the Australian Open tournament. EPA photo

Maria Sharapova has lost only five games in four matches on the way to the Australian Open quarterfinals, a record at the season’s first major that seems to be immaterial to the 25-year-old Russian.

The No. 2-ranked Sharapova beat Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-1, 6-0 yesterday to continue a dominant and unparalleled run.

Agnieszka Radwanska, meanwhile, won her 13th consecutive match of the year, advancing to the Australian Open quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Ana Ivanovic yesterday.

The No. 4-ranked Radwanska, who won tournaments in Auckland and Sydney ahead of the Australian Open, will play 2011 French Open champion Li Na of China in the quarterfinals. Li beat Julia Gorges of Germany 7-6 (6), 6-1 in an earlier match yesterday.

Radwanska, who lost to Serena Williams in last year’s Wimbledon final, advanced to the final eight in Australia for the third consecutive year. “Well I’m certainly happy to be playing this well but ... it only gets tougher from here,” said Sharapova, who is playing her first tournament of 2013 after pulling out from a match in South Korea and an event at Brisbane because of an injured right collarbone.

More dominant

Steffi Graf conceded only eight games in her opening four matches here in 1989, when she won the second of her three straight Australian Open titles. Monica Seles matched that mark.
Sharapova has been even more dominant. She started with a pair of 6-0, 6-0 wins - the first time that has happened at a major since 1985 - and then beat seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in the third round. The reigning French Open champion is showing no signs of trouble with the collarbone in Melbourne, where she last won the 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, reflecting on a run to the title where she beat three players who’d been ranked No. 1. “Toughest draw in my career.”

‘Not a great start’

It hasn’t been as tough this year, but she next plays fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who ousted fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-4. Sharapova beat Makarova in the quarterfinals here last year on her way to the final, which she lost in straight sets to Victoria Azarenka.

She struggled at times against Flipkens, needing more than 11 minutes to hold serve in the fourth game, when she served three double-faults and had to fend off three break points. “I didn’t start the match really great,” Sharapova 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 had to beat former No. 1 Justine Henin in the quarterfinals when she won here in 2008. Last year, she beat Makarova at the same stage en route to the final. But Makarova, ranked 19th, said she is better prepared this time. “I really want to play against Maria,” Makarova said. “Now I’m pretty confident and I like my game.

“Last year I was so surprised ... and I had so many thoughts in my mind. This year I’m a little bit used to it, so I think I’ll be ready to play a good game.”

January/21/2013

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