Sharapova advances to quarterfinals of Aussie Open
The No. 2-ranked Sharapova conceded only five games en route to the quarterfinals, a record at the season's first major.
Steffi Graf conceded only eight games in her opening four matches in 1989, when she won the second of her three straight titles in Melbourne. Monica Seles matched that number twice.
Sharapova had a pair of 6-0, 6-0 wins in her first two rounds — 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.
She next plays fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who ousted fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-4, in a rematch of their quarterfinal here last year.
"Actually I really want to play against Maria because I lost here last year in the quarters," 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."
No. 19-seeded Makarova took out the highest seed to tumble so far at the season's first major, repeating her fourth-round success here last year when she beat Serena Williams.
Kerber and Makarova were two of only four women in 2012 to beat Williams, who lost only one match in the second half of last season as she collected titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championships.
"Seems like it was the same this year and last year. Unbelievable feeling," Makarova said. "I really like to play here. The crowd is so perfect."
In the first men's match Sunday, fourth-seeded David Ferrer had a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win over No. 16 Kei Nishikori of Japan to reach the quarterfinals, where he will meet Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.
Nishikori had won two of his previous three matches with Ferrer and was a quarterfinalist in Australia last year, but struggled with 65 unforced errors in the 2-hour, 10-minute match.
Almagro advanced later Sunday, leading 6-2, 5-1 when No. 8 Janko Tipsaveric retired from their fourth-round match.
It will be the first all-Spanish quarterfinal at the Australian Open since 2011, when Ferrer ended Rafael Nadal's bid for a sequence of four consecutive major titles.
No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who has the past two Australian titles, had a night match against No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka.
Another pair who met here last year played out a similar result on Saturday night, with No. 2-ranked Roger Federer knocking Bernard Tomic out of the tournament to end Australia's participation in the singles.
Federer gave the 20-year-old Aussie an instant reality check by breaking him in the very first game, ending Tomic's run of 76 service games unbroken, to set up a 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-1 win.
Federer, who has won four of his 17 Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park, also beat Tomic in the fourth round here last year.
"It's not my favorite part of the job beating up on the hometown heroes," Federer told the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, where he has won four of his 17 Grand Slam titles.
It was Federer's 250th win at a Grand Slam event. He next plays big-serving Canadians Milos Raonic, who had 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win over Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber.
The third round ended in the early hours of Sunday, when No. 14-seeded Gilles Simon outlasted fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 8-6 in a match that finished at 12:32 a.m. local time.
His next match is Monday against U.S. Open champion Andy Murray.
Simon and Jeremy Chardy, who ousted 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-3, were among the four Frenchman who advanced on Saturday.
The others — No. 7-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 9 Richard Gasquet — will meet in the next round.
On the women's side, defending champion Victoria Azarenka beat injured American Jamie Hampton 6-4, 4-6. 6-2 and Serena Williams had a 6-1, 6-3 victory against Japan's Ayumi Morita.
Williams, aiming for a third consecutive Grand Slam title, will next meet No. 14 Maria Kirilenko.
American teenager Sloane Stephens beat Laura Robson 7-5, 6-3 to set up a fourth-round match against Bojana Jovanovski, who ended the run of 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm in the third round.
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