Sharapova confirms quarter berth in style


MELBOURNE: Russian second seed Maria Sharapova swept into the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday with a straight sets mauling of China’s Peng Shuai, the 21st seed.

The five-time Grand Slam champion, who won the Australian title in 2008, finished strongly to down Peng 6-3, 6-0 and set up a final eight clash with rising star Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.

Sharapova went into the match with a 4-1 record over Peng but the 29-year-old matched her in the early exchanges before the Russian ran riot.

“I’ve always had a little trouble against Peng Shuai, she’s a really tough competitor,” Sharapova said. “She plays the ball hard and flat, she’s a bit untraditional.”

The pair exchanged breaks mid-way through the first set, with the tenacious Peng struggling to handle Sharapova’s powerful forehand.

The 27-year-old Russian, who survived a huge scare in the second round, ramped up the aggression to notch another break after Peng shot her forehand into the net, going on to take the set after 39 minutes.

Peng threw everything she had at Sharapova at the start of the second, stretching the opening game to 13 minutes as she desperately tried to stop the Russian breaking early.

She saved two set points but succumbed to a third and Sharapova never looked back, going on to bring up match point with an ace at 6-0 and sealing the win with a cross-court backhand.

The world number two said she was anticipating a torrid clash with Bouchard, who has lost all three of her previous matches with Sharapova but pushed her in the semi-finals of last year’s French Open.

“It was a really tough three setter. She’s been playing incredibly well — confident aggressive tennis. I have a tough match ahead of me,” she said. (AFP)