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Sharapova races into Open quarter-finals


Maria Sharapova AFP PHOTO

MELBOURNE – Second seed Maria Sharapova raced into the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday as she beat unseeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in straight sets.

The world number two, a finalist at Melbourne Park last year, blitzed to a 6-1, 6-0 win and will next face fellow Russia’s 19th seed Ekaterina Makarova, whom she beat in the last eight in 2012.

Sharapova has been in rampant form here and has only dropped five games in four matches so far in her bid for a second Australian title, after lifting the trophy in 2008.

“I’m certainly happy that I’m playing this well but it’s now the quarter-finals and it only gets tougher,” she said.

She had met Flipkens twice before and won both times and they tested each other in the first game, which the Belgian finally won.

Sharapova, who needs to reach at least the final to have a chance of returning to world number one, held serve then helped by some loose Flipkens shots got the break for 2-1 with a blistering crosscourt forehand winner.

Flipkens had two break point chances in the next game but failed to convert and Sharapova held after a game that went for some 12 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

The four-time Grand Slam winner, who defeated Venus Williams in the third round, was starting to get the measure of her opponent on a hot Melbourne day and a sizzling crosscourt backhand put her 4-1 in front.

She held serve and wrapped up the set when Flipkens sent a forehand long in the next.

Ahead of the match, Sharapova said she was wary of the Flipkens slice, but the Belgian rarely used it and she lost confidence in the second set as the Russian raced through it in just 25 minutes.

Flipkens, who is currently without a coach but takes advice from fellow Belgian and good friend Kim Clijsters, is battling back up the rankings after a blood clot hampered her progress in the first half of last year.

Despite losing Sunday, she is projected to move inside the top 35, which would be a career-best ranking.


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