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Saturday January 19, 2013

Sharapova packs off seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus

A DETERMINED and rampant Maria Sharapova handed out a tennis lesson to the ageing Venus Williams at the Australian Open yesterday, crushing the veteran American in straight sets.

The Russian, who lifted the trophy at Melbourne Park in 2008, was in rampant form, winning 6-1, 6-3 in 79 minutes on Rod Laver Arena against the vastly experienced seven-time Grand Slam champion.

Next up for the world No. 2, who was beaten in the final last year by Victoria Azarenka, is Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who overcame Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh.

“I was a really determined player out there because I knew the tennis that she’s capable of producing and playing,” said Sharapova.

“Despite what she’s ranked or seeded, it doesn’t matter when you go out on the court. She’s been there.

“She’s experienced enough to know no matter if you’re playing the third round, the quarters, or the final, you have to be ready.

“I certainly was. Since the draw came out, I was really looking forward to that match-up.”

Williams is only seeded 25 but she has been climbing back up the rankings after injury and illness, and was expected to offer more resistance. But Sharapova was in another class and hardly put a foot wrong.

“Definitely not my best day today. But, there’s always other days to play better,” said Williams.

“Honestly, every day that I practice is a day that I’m motivated to be better. Regardless of my results I want to be better, the best, the best that I can bring.”

None of the top names was troubled with Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Li Na all progressing. Seeded four, five and six respectively, they were joined by Ana Ivanovic, who won a battle of former world number ones by beating fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic.

Sharapova, who lifted the trophy at Melbourne Park in 2008 and was beaten in the final last year by Victoria Azarenka, next plays Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who overcame Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh.

The world number two has been in irresistible form, becoming the first person to score two ‘double bagel’ 6-0, 6-0 Grand Slam wins in a row since 1985 in her opening two matches.

She failed to make it three against Williams, but gave it her best shot with this great win. — AFP

“We know each other’s games very well,” she said. “A lot of it is about executing from our own sides. I thought I did a good job of what I had in my head and what I wanted to accomplish out there today.”

Her sister Serena, along with world number one Azarenka, play their third round matches on today.

While Sharapova is looking unbeatable, Poland’s Radwanska is the form player this year, winning her 12th match in a row without dropping a set in her best ever start to a season.

The world No. 4 proved too strong for Britain’s Heather Watson in a 6-3, 6-1 thumping as she searches for her first Grand Slam title.

“I think I’ve never won 12 matches in a row,” the Pole said. “It was my first time I played Auckland and Sydney and it was a good start. I can’t complain.”

Radwanska, who won lead-up tournaments in Auckland and Sydney, next faces 13th seed Ivanovic who eased past Jankovic 7-5, 6-3.

Ivanovic won the French Open title in 2008, but has failed to make any significant impact at a Grand Slam since. But she proved too much for Jankovic, who has also struggled to recapture her best form in recent years.

Ivanovic said she has worked hard to lose weight and build strength.

“I’m happy to see the results, and I definitely move a lot better and faster,” she said.

China’s top player Li is also a former winner at Roland Garros, in 2011, and she breezed past Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-1.

The sixth seed, a finalist at Melbourne Park in 2011, next plays 18th-seeded German Julia Goerges, who beat Li’s compatriot Zheng Jie.

The Chinese number one revealed a goal of cracking the top three this year.

“I know it’s tough, but if you didn’t have a goal maybe you just feel like, ‘Oh, number six also is pretty good’,” she said.

Kerber, who was celebrating her 25th birthday, was given a second set workout by young American Madison Keys but was never seriously threatened in a 6-2, 7-5 win.

She has never been beyond the third round in Melbourne before and now meets 19th-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

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