Maria Sharapova ended Venus Williams’ Australian Open run on Friday night with a 6-1 6-3 win.
The much younger Sharapova picked apart Williams for an easy victory, ending the solid momentum the seven-time Grand Slam champ has acquired since returning to the pro circuit after suffering from the debilitating Sjrogen’s Syndrome.
The fifth game of the first was the first Sharapova conceded through two and bit rounds of the tournament, but unfortunately for Willliams it was the only one the 32-year-old opponent could manage in the set. The second set started in similar fashion, the world No.2 Sharapova jumped out to a 3-0 lead and didn’t look back.
Venus was unable to find the form that carried her into the Sharapova matchup, depicted by her lacklustre 44% first serve conversion rate.
However, retirement still sounds a way off for Venus.
“She played very well. I expect her to play well,” she said. “Definitely not my best day today. But, you know, there's always other days to play better.”
Reigning Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic made relatively easy work of 31st seed Radek Stepanek on Friday.
Stepanek used an unpredicatable approach to try unearth Djokovic, to no avail, but the 34-year-old found some success in working the net. The Czech approached the net 67 times during the straight sets loss- a tactic later round opponents might also try employ.
“For a regular player, to beat him from the back of the court is very difficult. I think they will lose 98 per cent of the matches,” said Stepanek.
“I think to beat him is the way to play to serve really well, hold your service games and distract his game from the back because his game from the back is, as I said, the best in the world.
The Serbian world No.1 looked a little underdone at the Hopman Cup in Perth in early January, but now appears to be nearing his scary best.
Fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic also made his way into the fourth round with another epic five set marathon, this time against 32nd seed Julien Benneteau 3-6 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-3.
Tipsarevic’s first round matchup with former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt took only three sets, but it was a difficult match for the eighth seed and Hewitt made him work extremely hard for the win. Slovakian Lukas Lacko had a two set advantage in their second round matchup before Tipsarevic fought back to claim the final three.
Against Benneteau was another close one; Tipsarevic hit 13 aces to Benneteau’s 12 and 48 winners to his opponent’s 47.
High seeds Angelique Kerber and Li Na, the fifth and sixth seeds respectively in the women’s singles, both enjoyed Friday wins.
Kerber defeated American teenager Madison Keys 6-2 7-5 while Li defeated Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-1.
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