Tennis: Dark horse Makarova races into Australian Open semis
MELBOURNE, Australia – Australian Open dark horse Ekaterina Makarova of Russia raced into the semi-finals on Tuesday with an upset straight sets thrashing of third seed Simona Halep.
Makarova, seeded 10, easily overcame the Romanian 6-4, 6-0 to set up a final four showdown with either fellow Russian Maria Sharapova, seeded second, or Canadian seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard.
The 26-year-old has made the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park twice previously but never before advanced to the semis in seven attempts.
“I love it, it’s a great feeling that I came through,” she said.
“She’s a tough opponent. I lost to her two years ago (in New Haven). I’m used to being in the quarters, so now I have to get used to being in the semis.”
Halep made a nightmare start, trailing 3-0 on the back of two early breaks, thanks to two double faults and a rash of unforced errors.
She broke back in the fourth game and had her chances in the eighth but struggled as the taller Makarova went for tight angles, forcing Halep wide of the baseline.
The nuggety Romanian survived one set point with an ace at 5-3 and another with a blistering forehand return as Makarova served in the next game, but the Russian took it on the third attempt after 39 minutes.
Makarova, her right thigh heavily strapped, showed no sign of impaired movement, pouncing on a weak Halep return to pressure her opponent in the opening game of the second set.
Halep double faulted again, going on to lose her third service game of the match.
She again had chances with four break points in the next game but Makarova held on and proceeded to score another break of her own as Halep’s returns failed to find their mark.
By this stage Halep’s trademark fighting qualities had deserted her and the world number three meekly handed Makarova another break to concede the match with a second set 6-0 “bagel”.