Melbourne - Angelique
Kerber roared out of the blocks and ruthlessly crushed Maria Sharapova
in a battle of former champions at the Australian Open on Saturday.
The 2016 winner sped into a 4-1 first set lead with a display of
effervescent hitting in their hotly-anticipated third-round encounter.
Sharapova, the Melbourne Park champion here 10 years ago, was sent
packing in just 64 minutes as a resurgent 21st seed dismantled her 6-1,
"I was just trying to enjoy every point," said Kerber after ending
unseeded Sharapova's run in only her second Grand Slam tournament back
since serving a 15-month doping ban.
The mouth-watering match-up of the only the two Australian Open
winners - and Grand Slam champions - left in the women's draw got top
billing on Rod Laver Arena but was turned into a tennis exhibition by
"I have so many good memories on this court," said Kerber, who won
her first Grand Slam title there two years ago when she beat Serena
Williams in the final.
"I knew before that it will be a tough match. I was trying from the
first point to be aggressive, but also staying really focused on my
game, playing every single point.
"After the first set, I was trying to not think about the score, just going for it."
The Russian, like Kerber a former number one, reached the semi-finals
in Shenzhen to start the year by getting back into the top 50 but the
German's form has been outstanding heading into the year's first major.
Kerber enjoyed an unbeaten singles campaign in the Hopman Cup, won in
Sydney to get back into the top 20 after a torrid 2017 and surrendered
only nine games in the first two rounds in Melbourne.
"I think she plays extremely well when she has a lot of matches behind her back," said Sharapova of Kerber.
"I've always thought she's a confidence player, as well. I thought
she played very aggressive. she took risks, and it worked today."
The pair had played each other on seven occasions before Saturday,
with Kerber edging the series 4-3 including their previous two meetings,
the last of which came on the Stuttgart clay in 2015.
Kerber sent an early reminder of her recent superiority, breaking the
Russian and then holding serve to go 2-0 up for the loss of just two
Sharapova finally got on the board, but flawless Kerber was finding
winners almost at will and broke again to take a 4-1 advantage in just
Six minutes later and a third break, this time to love, brought the
first set to the German who celebrated her 30th birthday earlier this
week by taking it with just two unforced errors.
Sharapova was facing the biggest test of her comeback as the pattern continued at the start of the second.
A double fault followed by a sloppy backhand way beyond the baseline handed Kerber a 2-0 lead.
Sharapova's form may have been patchy since her comeback but her fighting qualities have never been in doubt.
Almost down and out, she broke Kerber for the first time and held to get back on serve at 2-2.
But Kerber's relentless accuracy finally told at 4-3 in the second.
Sharapova netted twice to hand the decisive break to Kerber who served
out with ease to seal the victory.
Kerber will face Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei for a place in the quarter-finals.
from the Australian Open on Saturday:
Dominic Thiem (AUT x5) bt Adrian Mannarino (FRA x26) 6-4, 6-2, 7-5
Tennys Sandgren (USA) bt Maximilian Marterer (GER) 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (7/5)
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Nicolas Kicker (ARG) 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
Fabio Fognini (ITA x25) bt Julien Benneteau (FRA) 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
Chung Hyeon (KOR) bt Alexander Zverev (GER x4) 5-7, 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0
Tomas Berdych (CZE x19) bt Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG x12) 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
Novak Djokovic (SRB x14) bt Albert Ramos (ESP x21) 6-2, 6-3, 6-3
Roger Federer (SUI x2) bt Richard Gasquet (FRA x29) 6-2, 7-5, 6-4
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x6) bt Lucie Safarova (CZE x29) 7-6 (8/6), 7-5
Madison Keys (USA x17) bt Ana Bogdan (ROM) 6-3, 6-4
Simona Halep (ROM x1) bt Lauren Davis (USA) 4-6, 6-4, 15-13
Caroline Garcia (FRA x8) bt Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 6-3, 5-7, 6-2
Naomi Osaka (JPN) bt Ashleigh Barty (AUS x18) 6-4, 6-2
Barbora Strycova (CZE x20) bt Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-2, 6-2
Angelique Kerber (GER x21) bt Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-1, 6-3
Hsieh Su-wei TPE) bt Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x26) 6-2, 7-5