Maria Sharapova got the better of Russian compatriot Ekaterina Makarova today to advance to a semi-final meeting with Petra Kvitova at the Australian Open.
In a match of hard-hitting baseline rallies, fourth seed Sharapova possessed the greater accuracy, particularly at the key moments, to move through 6-2 6-3.
Makarova, the world number 56 and appearing in her first grand slam quarter-final, acquitted herself well but was not able to make enough headway on the Sharapova serve.
She started nervously, having to save three break points in her opening service game, but when Sharapova threatened again the 2008 champion in Melbourne made no mistake with a blistering forehand winner.
The forehand was prominent once more when Sharapova broke at 5-2 to claim the opening set, a drilled return cross court giving Makarova no chance.
Her victory over Serena Williams in the previous round proved Makarova was not one for respecting an opponent’s reputation and she started the second set strongly, breaking for a 2-1 lead but Sharapova hit back straightaway and then ran through the next three games to take the match away from the 23-year-old.
Makarova made her serve it out after Sharapova squandered a straightforward opportunity on match-point, netting a mid-court backhand, but she made no mistake to give herself the chance to avenge her loss to Kvitova in the Wimbledon final last July.
Earlier, Kvitova overcame a mid-match slump to beat Sara Errani 6-4 6-4.
With her big-hitting game, the match was always going to be played on Kvitova’s terms against the smaller Italian.
So it proved as the rallies were won or lost by the Czech with Errani simply trying to make it as difficult as possible for her opponent.
And for the most part she did a good job.
With service holds at a premium, the opening set came down to Kvitova’s consistency and she held it together long enough to claim it in 53 minutes.
And she looked on her way to a routine win when she also claimed the Errani serve at the start of the second.
But the world number 48, appearing in her maiden grand slam quarter-final, had other ideas as Kvitova’s game started to disintegrate.
The number of unforced errors from the Czech increased rapidly – she made 44 in the match – and Errani took full advantage, wisely keeping the ball in play and making her opponent play one more shot.
It led to her winning four games on the trot.
But Kvitova, sensing the match was getting away from her, refocused and having held for 2-4, reeled off another four games in a row, reasserting her authority from the baseline.
“I expected it to be tough,” said Kvitova. “She played very well today and also over the past few days. I didn’t expect it to be easy.”