Maria Sharapova refused to look past her quarter-final opponent Ekaterina Makarova, despite another lop-sided win at the Australian Open.
Sharapova dismantled Kirsten Flipkens 6-1, 6-0 in 68 minutes to move into the last eight and maintain her impressive run in Melbourne. The Russian has dropped just five games in four matches – including the third round thrashing of Venus Williams – a tournament record since the 128-player draw was introduced in 1988.
With fellow big guns Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams in the top half of the draw, the expectation is Sharapova will cruise through to Saturday’s final, but the second seed does not see it that way.
She said: “It’s not about waiting to see where you are in the semis or finals. It’s about who is ahead of you. My next match is against Makarova and I have to do the right things to beat her. If I win that, it’s about moving on to the next one. That’s how I go about a tournament, a grand slam.
“Obviously I want to be playing my best tennis towards the end of the second week.”
Sharapova did not have to play her best tennis yesterday against an opponent who was completely outclassed.
She broke for a 2-1 first set lead and never looked back, further breaks in games five and seven handing her a one-sided first set. Her intensity did not drop in the second either, denying Flipkens a game as she set up a rematch of last year’s quarter-final against countrywoman Makarova – a match she won 6-2, 6-3.
Makarova’s love affair with Melbourne continued as she made it through with an impressive defeat of fifth seed Angelique Kerber. The 24-year-old equalled her best-ever run at a major by downing the German 7-5, 6-4.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, I really like playing here,” the Russian said. “I lost three times to Angelique last year, she is so good so I am very happy.”
Makarova also got her wish of a rematch with Sharapova.
“Last year I was surprised to reach that stage and I had so many thoughts in my mind,” she said.
“This year I will be ready to play a good game.”
Makarova was the more positive player throughout against Kerber and held herself together after squandering a 5-2 first set lead.
She broke for 6-5 and then served it out to edge ahead, before Kerber’s chances of finding a route back into the contest were hampered by a back injury. A solitary break in the ninth game for Makarova proved decisive.
Li Na, a finalist here in 2011, overcame some nervy moments before seeing off Julia Goerges 7-6 (8/6), 6-1.
Goerges had a set point in the tie-break but missed a straightforward backhand and, from there, it was one-way traffic.
“When she missed I was laughing a bit because I was so happy to still be in the first set,” the Chinese said.
“After that I think she had a bit of a mental breakdown.”
Li will next meet Agnieszka Radwanska, who maintained her remarkable form in 2013 with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Ana Ivanovic.
Fourth seed Radwanska has won all 13 matches she has played this year in straight sets, incorporating title wins in Auckland and Sydney.
“I’m happy I could play my best tennis again tonight,” she said, “and I’m happy that I am in the quarter-finals again.
“She started playing more aggressively in the second set, but at the important moments I was focused and happy that I could close the match out in two sets.”