World No. 1 Serena Williams and former No. 1 Maria Sharapova will square off in a blockbuster quarterfinal at the Australian Open after both players advanced on Sunday in Melbourne.
Williams was in typical devastating form as she took apart unseeded Russian Margarita Gasparyan 6-2, 6-1. The No. 5-seeded Sharapova had to work a little harder, holding back No. 12 seed Belinda Bencic 7-5, 7-5.
“I played her in the first round of Wimbledon,” Williams said of the Russian with the stunning one-handed backhand. “I knew going in that she likes to go for a lot — she’s really hungry and a good player who’s really aggressive, so I knew that I had to play really strong today.”
Sharapova said her boatload of unforced errors, 46, was just part of the plan of being aggressive against Bencic.
“I felt like I had to be aggressive,” said Sharapova who trailed a break in the opening set. “I’m an aggressive player. But there is a difference between making the wrong errors and making the right errors. I feel like, yeah, I made errors. I went sometimes for a little bit too much. But I think the difference is sometimes you’re making errors, but you feel like you’re doing the right thing.”
Sharapova was overjoyed at the end of the match after winning match point on a replay challenge. The Russian will look to keep serving big, after dropping 21 aces on Bencic, against the world No. 1 Williams.
“You’re always trying to…always trying to improve,” Sharapova said. “I got myself into the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam. There is no reason I shouldn’t be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round. It’s only going to be tougher, especially against Serena.”
No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska had a close call in her fourth round match on Sunday, defeating unseeded German Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-7(6), 6-1, 7-5.
Friedsam led 5-2 in the third set but her gas tank hit “E” and she was unable to shut the door on the Pole, losing five straight games and crying near the end of the match as she struggled physically.
“I think you’re trying to make her run definitely,” said Radwanska of her tactics. “I think as we could see the worse for her was jumping, so it mean serve. Well, just bad luck. Was definitely the score that you want to be healthy and be 100 percent. Obviously have to ask her what happened, why, what was going on. I think just the cramps. Well, happens.”
Radwanska is the quarters will face No. 10 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, who also battled back from a first set loss to defeat Australian up-and-comer Daria Gavrilova 0-6, 6-3, 6-2.
“The end of the match, I think I was more focused than her,” the Spaniard said. “She mistakes a lot in one or two balls. But this is tennis. Just try to be there, try to believe, try to fight. And I was there.”
It is the first Melbourne quarterfinal appearance for Suarez Navarro in seven years.
“I know that because [Radwanska's] style, you have to run a lot, you have to think every point what to do,” Suarez Navarro said. “But I think I’m ready. I’m really enjoy playing here in Melbourne. I’m really happy to be in the next round. I want more. I want more.”
On court Monday in Melbourne will be (7) Angelique Kerber vs. unseeded German Annika Beck, (14) Victoria Azarenka vs. unseeded Czech Barbora Strycova, (15) Madison Keys vs. China’s unseeded Shuai Zhang, and (21) Ekaterina Makarova vs. unseeded Brit Johanna Konta.
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