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Australian Open 2016

Serena serves up glamour clash with Sharapova

World No 1 says she will be more than ready for quarter-final showdown against the Russian at the Australian Open

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 January, 2016, 11:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 January, 2016, 12:50am

Serena Williams served up a glamour Australian Open quarter-final against arch-rival Maria Sharapova as she looks to extend her iron grip over the Russian star.

The world number one and defending champion smacked down Margarita Gasparyan 6-2,

6-1 in just 55 minutes on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday to ensure the mouth-watering showdown.

I just feel like I’m really confident in my game right now, not against her or against any other opponent
Serena Williams

Sharapova holds the dismal record of never beating her nemesis in 17 contests dating back 12 years. The last time she managed a win was at the WTA Tour Championships in 2004.

She now has another chance to finally get the monkey off her back after coming through a 7-5, 7-5 thriller against fast-rising Swiss teen Belinda Bencic.

READ MORE: ‘MATCH TO FORGET’ AS NOVAK DJOKOVIC WOBBLES INTO QUARTER-FINALS AT AUSTRALIAN OPEN

The Russian world number five, who lost to Williams in the Melbourne Park final last year, said she was always looking to improve and used the losses against the mighty American to examine what she could do better.

“Absolutely. It’s not like I think about what I can do worse,” she said. “You’re always trying to – always trying to improve. I got myself into the quarter-final of a grand slam.

“There is no reason I shouldn’t be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round.

“It’s only going to be tougher, especially against Serena,” said Sharapova.

“I look forward to playing the best in the world and that’s what she’s proven in the last year.”

A nonchalant Williams, who rarely looks beyond her next opponent in the draw, claimed she didn’t know Sharapova was now in the way of her bid to win a 22nd grand slam and equal Steffi Graf’s Open-era record.

“I’ll be ready, she had a really good match – I had no idea I was playing her [Sharapova] next,” she told the courtside interviewer after taming Gasparyan.

“That will be a good match, I have nothing to lose. We are both doing the best we can. It’ll be fun.

“I just feel like I’m really confident in my game right now, not against her or against any other opponent,” Williams said.

“I’m just really looking at me right now, and I feel like if I can just continue to play well, then it could be good.”

Williams has been in ominous form this year at Melbourne Park and easily swatted aside Gasparyan in her match.

The 34-year-old had schooled another Russian, Daria Kasatkina, in the previous round, crushing her in just 44 minutes, and handed the same lesson to the 58th-ranked player in the world.

It was a sluggish start by Williams, who was broken in the first game by the 21-year-old on her tournament debut, to gasps of shock from the crowd.

But it was a minor blip as the top seed found her range, with the great Margaret Court in the stadium watching.

It wasn’t vintage Serena but even operating at 50 per cent she was too good for Gasparyan and a rout was always on the cards.

Williams won three majors – the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon – in 2015, which took her to within one of Graf’s long-time record of 22. Court holds the all-time grand slam record of 24.

Anna-Lena Friedsam’s giant-killing run ended in tears and injury after a thigh ailment allowed world number four Agnieszka Radwanska to snatch a 6-7 (6-8), 6-1, 7-5 win.

The 21-year-old German, who had never been past the second round of a grand slam before this year’s tournament, had Radwanska on the ropes when she led 5-2 in the deciding set before injury cruelly struck at 5-4.

Tenth seed Carla Suarez Navarro overcame a slow start to rebound for a 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Russian-born Australian Daria Gavrilova. The Spanish player, using a vast array of shots, dominated the last two sets with five service breaks and dropping just one service game.