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GUTSY SHOW

MELBOURNE: Maria Sharapova enjoyed the smoothest passage to the Australian Open quarter-finals in history yesterday as Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na also stormed through.

The irresistible world number two clocked up her fifth 6-0 set score of the first week as she blitzed Kirsten Flipkens 6-1, 6-0 to reach the quarters for the loss of just five games, smashing the tournament record.

Sharapova, the statuesque Russian who clinched the title in 2008, won her first two matches 6-0, 6-0, a double not achieved at a Grand Slam since 1985, and then floored Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in the third round.

She beats the tournament record of eight games lost en route to the last eight, held by Monica Seles and Steffi Graf, and comes close to Mary Pierce's all-Grand Slam mark of four in reaching the 1994 French Open quarters.

The intensely focused Sharapova has not given her opponents an inch, in a relentless performance which has given backers of Serena Williams, the tournament favourite, second thoughts.

But the four-time Grand Slam winner said her thoughts never strayed beyond her next opponent, in this case fellow Russian Ekaterina Makerova, her victim in the quarter-finals on the way to last year's final.

Ahead

"It's not about waiting to see where you are in the semis or finals, it's about who's ahead of you," said Sharapova, a veteran of 38 Grand Slam campaigns at the age of just 25.

"And my next match is against Makarova. I have to do the right things to beat her. If I win that, it's moving on to the next one. That's how I go about a tournament, a Grand Slam. Obviously I want to be playing my best tennis towards the end of the second week."

However, tomorrow Sharapova will meet a challenger gunning for revenge in the form of Makarova, who is still smarting from last year's comprehensive 6-2, 6-3 defeat. "She won a lot of matches easily because she is playing so aggressive, staying in the court," Makarova said of Sharapova, after ousting Germany's Angelique Kerber in straight sets.

As China's Li dispatched Germany's Julia Goerges, Poland's world number four Radwanska dominated former world number one Ana Ivanovic as she chalked up her 13th win of the nascent season.

Radwanska, who reached her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon last year.

"Ana played more aggressively in the second set and was volleying well but in the important moments I was focused and glad I could close it out in two sets."

Radwanska's opponent tomorrow will be Li, the world number six and 2011 French Open champion, who was also impressive in her 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 victory over Goerges as she reached her third Melbourne quarter-final.



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