Maria Sharapova into last 16 in straight sets

BEN MCKAY
Last updated 17:45 18/01/2014
Maria Sharapova
DAVID GRAY/ Reuters Zoom
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Ice packs, ice baths, ice cold drinks. Whatever it takes to cool down in 43 degree heat.

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Maria Sharapova concedes she needs to improve to win the Australian Open despite powering into the second week with a 6-1 7-6 (8-6) win over Alize Cornet.

In milder temperatures, the Russian third seed's devastating groundstrokes, particularly her inside-out forehand and cross-court backhand, delivered 35 winners to crush Cornet as if she was first-round fodder rather than the 25th seed.

While Sharapova dominated regular play and was able to break Cornet at will, she was broken four times herself and knows she needs to address her service shortcomings.

Cornet took advantage of Sharapova's failing serve to break and lead the second set 3-1 with a stunning drop volley.

But she wasn't able to cash in on Sharapova's inconsistencies despite a set point in the tiebreaker.

Sharapova, who spent three-and-a-half hours on court in intense heat for her second-round match, was aware of the need to lift her game for the tournament's second week.

"I definitely need to step it up. It always gets tougher from here," she said.

"I can take a few positives from this match, one being I was able to win it not playing my best tennis."

"After the last match I'm just happy to get through this one and have another day to recover."

Sharapova set up an intriguing fourth-round encounter with 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova, who was ruthless in her 6-1 6-0 demolition of injury-hampered Spanish 16th seed Carla Suarez Navarro.

The Slovakian hit 20 winners, has not dropped a set at the Open in three matches and has now repeated her best performance at Melbourne Park.

Sharapova was aware of the challenge Cibulkova presents in the round of 16.

"She's a great retriever of the ball. It's going to be a very physical match," she said.

"She likes to make it physical. That's when she's at her best and I don't want to go there. She's a tough opponent."

Cibulkova has beaten Sharapova twice in their past three outings, and took confidence from her strong win on Saturday.

"I felt pumped up and was feeling great on court," she said.

"I'm going in 100 per cent confident."

Outside Open hopes Jelena Jankovic, Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens also progressed to the last 16.

Serbian eighth seed Jankovic beat Japanese 22-year-old Kurumi Nara 6-4 7-5, Romanian 11th seed Halep defeated Kazakh qualifier Zarina Diyas 6-1 6-4 and American 13th seed Stephens overcame Elina Svitolina 7-5 6-4.

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- AAP

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