Quick­fire Serena sets up Shara­pova show­down

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

World num­ber one and de­fend­ing cham­pion Serena Wil­liams smacked down Mar­garita Gas­paryan to sweep into an Aus­tralian Open quar­ter- fi­nal against Maria Shara­pova on Sun­day. The Amer­i­can top seed and 21-time Grand Slam win­ner wasted lit­tle en­ergy in swat­ting aside the un­seeded Rus­sian 6-2, 6-1 in 55 min­utes at Rod Laver Arena to set up the mouth­wa­ter­ing clash with her long-time ri­val.

Wil­liams has won ev­ery game against Shara­pova since 2004, in­clud­ing last year's fi­nal at Mel­bourne Park. Five-time Grand Slam win­ner Shara­pova came through an epic 7-5, 7-5 bat­tle against 12th seed Belinda Ben­cic im­me­di­ately be­fore Wil­liams came on court.

Wil­liams, who rarely looks at the draw dur­ing a tour­na­ment, claimed she didn't know who she was fac­ing next.

"I had no idea," she said, when told Shara­pova was up next by a court­side in­ter­viewer. "I re­ally have noth­ing to lose. We're both just do­ing the best we can. It'll be fun." The 34-yearold had schooled an­other Rus­sian, Daria Kasatk­ina, in the ear­lier round, crush­ing her in just 44 min­utes, and now it was the 58th-ranked Gas­paryan's turn. 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, break­ing straight back as the Rus­sian found her­self on the re­ceiv­ing end of Wil­liams' pow­er­ful fore­hand. Wil­liams, with the great Mar­garet Court in the sta­dium watch­ing, held serve and broke again for a 3-1 lead. It wasn't vin­tage Serena but even op­er­at­ing at 50 per­cent she was too good for Gas­paryan and a rout was on the cards. Gas­paryan, who won her first WTA ti­tle last year, at Baku, gamely hung on and held serve to keep the score re­spectable. But the six­time Mel­bourne Park win­ner, gun­ning to equal St­effi Graf's Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam ti­tles, was in full con­trol, do­ing the nec­es­sary to take the set eas­ily in 30 min­utes.-

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