- Australian Open, Day Nine
Sharapova books surprise semi-final with Li Na
Maria Sharapova will meet an unexpected face in the Australian Open semi-finals after registering yet another lop-sided victory in the last-eight stage of the competition on Tuesday.
Sharapova, who did not drop a game in either of her opening two matches in Melbourne, continued her hot streak against Ekaterina Makarova, winning 6-2 6-2 in 66 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.
Her anticipated last-four rival had been No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, but she was stunned earlier in the day by Li Na, who won 7-5 6-3.
Sharapova's form has been record-breaking at the year's first grand slam, dropping fewer games (five) than any player in history en route to the Australian Open quarter-finals. Tuesday's win over Makarova means she has now lost nine games heading into the semis - not even enough to lose a match.
The serene on-court mood shown by the Russian will be of concern to her forthcoming rivals, with Sharapova uncharacteristically cool-blooded on the big points. A tendency to tense up at key moments has marked parts of her career, but she converted five of ten break chances against Makarova.
The second serve of Makarova was Sharapova's selected target, winning seven of nine points from her compatriot in the first set. Makarova did manage her only break of the contest, but never looked like troubling the world No. 2.
The second set was even more dominant for Sharapova, who began to thunder down winners with her trademark forehand. She fired 12 in total during the second half of the match, and served out comfortably to book a semi-final spot.
Sharapova's last-four opponent, Li, needed 66 minutes just to secure the first set against Radwanska, who lost for the first time in 14 matches. Radwanska had not dropped a set in 2013, but she was outgunned by the 2011 runner-up.
Kim Clijsters denied Li two years ago, but she will feel confident after a powerful display in the second set, which saw her recover from 0-2 down to storm 5-2 ahead. She then afforded Radwanska two break points when serving for the match, but stayed composed to advance in the competition.