Sharapova sends warning to Serena

Sharapova sends warning to Serena

Sharapova sends warning to Serena

Russian superstar Maria Sharapova celebrates after beating United States’ Venus Williams in a third round meeting at the Australian Open. AP photo

A merciless Maria Sharapova continued her serene progress through the Australian Open draw on Jan. 18, obliterating third-round opponent Venus Williams 6-1 6-3 and throwing down the gauntlet to her younger sister Serena.

The second seeded Russian cannot meet the tournament favorite until the final, but the 79-minute slaughter filled with blood-curdling shrieks is sure to provide food for thought for the 15-time Grand Slam champion.

With her two prior opponents left scoreless and humbled, Sharapova appeared set for a third successive ‘double bagel’ when she scorched to a 4-0 lead.

Mercifully, for herself and a stunned centre court crowd, 25th-seed Williams held serve to stave off another humiliation.

“I was a really determined player out there because I knew the tennis that she’s capable of producing and playing,” Sharapova told reporters of the seven-time major winner.

“Despite what she’s ranked or seeded, it doesn’t matter when you go out on the court. She’s been there. She’s experienced enough to know no matter if you’re playing the third round, the quarters, or the final, you have to be ready.

“I certainly was.”

A much-hyped match-up was reduced to a one-sided rout, as Sharapova burned to a 5-1 lead in the second set.

Raucous cheers

Williams sparked raucous cheers by breaking Sharapova’s serve and lifted the roof by holding her own to claw back to 5-3. But Sharapova blasted an ace to seal the match, celebrating the victory with a fist-pumping scream.

The crushing loss amplified Williams’s fall from her halcyon days, and left her stony-faced at her post-match media conference.

“Definitely not my best day today,” said Williams, who has battled Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes fatigue and pain.

Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens is next to be thrown to the wolves against Sharapova.