Dominant Sharapova sets up Kvitova revenge match
MELBOURNE - Reuters
Maria Sharapova closes her quarterfinal match against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in a little under 90 minutes. AFP photoRussia’s Maria Sharapova booked her spot in the last four of the Australian Open yesterday with a surprisingly straightforward 6-2 6-3 win over compatriot Ekaterina Makarova.
Makarova had stunned five-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round but her performance against the world number four was a major let down as Sharapova closed out the win in a little under 90 minutes.
She will now get the chance to avenge her 2011 Wimbledon final defeat to Petra Kvitova after the Czech bounced Italian Sara Errani out in their earlier quarterfinal encounter.
“I thought she was going to play really well today coming off a big win, probably her biggest in her career,” Sharapova said.
Sharapova, who won the last of her three grand slams at Melbourne Park in 2008, swarmed all over Makarova’s weak second serve and routinely swatted them back faster than they came at her.
The Melbourne Park crowd have given fellow primal screamer Victoria Azarenka a hard time throughout the tournament but they were more forgiving of the Sharapova shrieks, which assaulted eardrums anywhere in the vicinity of Rod Laver Arena.
Sharapova had too much juice on her serve for Makarova to return with any venom and the former number one faced just two break points in the match.
One of those break points came with a 4-2 lead in the first set, but Sharapova averted the danger with an ace then crushed a forehand winner to take a three-game lead and broke Makarova again to seal the set.
Makarova was more successful on her second break point early in the second set, keeping the ball alive long enough to bang a backhand across court and go 2-1 up.
However, with Makarova unable to get enough first serves in, Sharapova pounced on the weaker second serve to break straight back and went on to win the next three games.
Sharapova put the match away in the ninth game, forcing her opponent into another error from the baseline.
World number one Caroline Wozniacki’s exit from the tournament at the hands of Kim Clijsters means Sharapova, Kvitova or Azarenka will claim the top ranking by the end of the year’s first grand slam.
Immensely powerful women
In the other semifinal today, defending champion Clijsters will take on Azarenka.
Clijsters has beaten the top seed but she will need to overcome injury as well as Azareknka as she aims to round off her Australian Open career with a flourish.
The Belgian mother-of-one, who will retire this season, has battled into the semifinals despite rolling an ankle in the fourth round against Li Na, an injury which needed intensive treatment before her quarterfinal.
The ankle damage, the latest in a series of injuries, needed icing every 20 minutes and it limited Clijsters to one practice session before her last-eight win over Caroline Wozniacki, which cost the Dane her world number one ranking.
Clijsters missed months at the end of last season with an abdominal problem and she suffered a hip spasm which forced her out of this year’s Brisbane International. She has also had a scan in Melbourne for a neck problem.
The two women are immensely powerful with no obvious weaknesses and they are evenly matched, a fact acknowledged by the 28-year-old Belgian.
“She’s playing extremely well, playing with a lot of confidence,” Clijsters said. “So it will be tough. I’ll have to play some of my best tennis to try and beat her.”
Azarenka, who reached the same stage at Wimbledon last year before falling to eventual champion Petra Kvitova, said she would try to blank out her opponent and the size of the occasion.
“Kim is great champion. She knows how to be in the situation, handle big matches,” she said. “But we’ll see. I just try to stay fresh out there, you know, and keep playing my game.”
Djokovic set to meet Murray in semifinal
MELBOURNE - Agence France-Presse
Defending champion Novak Djokovic was given a thorough workout by Spain’s David Ferrer yesterday but battled through to set up an Australian Open semifinal showdown against Andy Murray.
The tenacious Ferrer pushed Djokovic hard, manoeuvring him around the court, but the top seed stepped up his game when it mattered to win 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 in 2hr 44min.
Djokovic earned a crucial service break in the fifth game of the first set which proved enough for him to take the lead against the fifth seed after nearly an hour full of punishing rallies. Looking tired at the end of the first set, Djokovic produced a backhand winner at full stretch from the back of the court early in the second, breaking in the first game. He looked in trouble when he grimaced in pain, clutching his left hamstring as Ferrer levelled at 2-2 but he did not appear to be restricted, going on to take the tiebreak and seize a 2-0 lead.
“Already after a couple of games I was feeling it was going to be a long match,” Djokovic said.
“There was a big mental advantage to getting two sets up,” he said, adding that he had stepped up his aggression as the match wore on and it paid off.