Sharapova blasts into Aussie Open semis

Last updated 20:44 22/01/2013

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Maria Sharapova continued her perfect run in Australian Open quarter-finals by swatting aside Russian compatriot Ekaterina Makarova tonight.

Sharapova had not lost any of her previous five Australian Open quarter-final matches, a record she extended with ease against the 19th-seeded Makarova with a 6-2 6-2 victory.

The pair had met in the same round last year at Melbourne Park.The 24-year-old Makarova had beaten 11th seed Marion Bartoli and fifth seed Angelique Kerber to make the quarter-finals, but was unable to stop Sharapova's rampant march through the tournament.

Sharapova has dropped just nine games in total, the fewest number conceded by a semi-finalist at the tournament.

Monica Seles conceded just 12 games on her way to the 1991 semi-finals.

Sharapova, who won the Australian Open title in 2008, will now meet sixth seed Li Na in the semi-finals on Thursday.

Earlier today, Li advanced to the semifinals for the third time in four years, bringing fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska's 13-match winning streak to a shuddering halt.

Sixth-seeded Li, who lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters only months before her Grand Slam breakthrough at the French Open, had a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Radwanska in today's first match on Rod Laver Arena.

 ''She's a tough player.  I was feeling today against a wall,'' Li said.

''She can hit everywhere, but without a mistake.  I was feeling just very tough.  You have to focus on every shot. 

"Not every point, every shot.'' Radwanska came into the Australian Open with titles this season at Auckland and Sydney, where she beat Li in the semifinals, but continued her poor conversation rate in Grand Slam quarterfinals.

She's only advanced further once in seven tries - at Wimbledon last year, when she lost the final to Serena Williams.

The quarterfinals on the other half of the draw will feature American teenager Sloane Stephens against Serena Williams, who is aiming for a third consecutive major title, and defending champion Victoria Azarenka against two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Stephens has heard a lot of advice from Serena Williams.

Pointers on her groundstrokes, and even on her grunts. It's been mostly gentle encouragement, occasionally spiced with headline-making comments from Williams, who has predicted the 19-year-old American will one day top the women's rankings.

As Stephens learned earlier this month, though, it's one thing to play with Williams, another to play against the 15-time Grand Slam champion.

With a comeback 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win over Bojana Jovanovski on Monday, Stephens qualified for her first quarterfinal at a major tournament.  Williams has already played at that level 34 times.

''It will be tough, obviously. It's quarters of a Grand Slam,'' Stephens said.

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''There won't be that, like, first time, 'Oh, my God, I'm playing Serena.' That's kind of out of the window now. So that's good.''

-With AAP

- Reuters

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