Kerber downs Sharapova
Originally published on 20/01/18 00:00
The German was in sizzling form as she dismantled Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-3 to reach the last sixteen of the Australian Open in style.
It was billed as a battle of two former champions on ‘Super Saturday’ but it quickly turned into a one-sided affair.
Kerber is confident, fit and eager to impress. The 30-year-old is on a mission to banish the memories of a dismal 2017 and she appears revitalised under the guidance of new coach, Wim Fissette.
‘I learned a lot from the last 24 months,” said the reflective German after her unbeaten start to the season continued. “I had a great 2016 and then last year was a little bit tougher. Everyone that knows me, they know that I never give up and I always come back.
“I had a really tough off-season and I was working hard to be here playing against the best players again. It's just great.”
This was the first showdown between Kerber and Sharapova in over three years, and it was the first time the German had faced the Russian as a major winner.
Kerber’s ability to absorb – and then redirect – pace from her opponent enabled her to stroll out into an early lead. The Russian was noticeably perturbed by how well her rival has started, and she was far from assured from the baseline.
The German pulled the Russian from corner to corner as she eased to the first set in just 29 minutes. She only hit eight winners, but committed a miserly two unforced-errors.
Sharapova’s hopes of mounting a comeback were dealt a blow early in the second set. She clobbered a backhand beyond the baseline to fall 2-0 behind, and it was unclear whether the match would break the 60-minute mark.
The Russian is renowned for her battling qualities though, and there was an immediate response. She began to find her range from the back of the court and cut out the mistakes.
Sharapova was back in contention, however she missed a glorious opportunity to move ahead for the first time. At 3-3, the Russian carved open a break-point chance, but despite some excellent build-up play, she lacked the final execution.
A wayward forehand cost the Russian a break, and she was soon embracing her rival after an error-strewn service game that included a fluffed dropshot attempt.
Kerber will encounter either Agnieszka Radwanska or Hsieh Su-wei in the fourth round.
Elsewhere on the grounds, Madison Keys, Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Garcia and Barbora Strýcová all ensured their participation in the second week.