Maria Sharapova has lost only five games in four matches on the way to the Australian Open quarterfinals, a record at the season’s first major that seems to be immaterial to the 25-year-old Russian.
Sharapova beat Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-1, 6-0 on Sunday to continue a dominant and unparalleled run.
“Well I’m certainly happy to be playing this well but ... it only gets tougher from here,” said Sharapova.
Steffi Graf conceded only eight games in her opening four matches here in 1989, when she won the second of her three straight Australian Open titles. Monica Seles matched that mark.
Sharapova has been even more dominant. She started with a pair of 6-0, 6-0 wins the first time that has happened at a major since 1985 and then beat Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in the third round.
“The year that I won here I don’t think there were many games that I lost, but I don’t think it was five or six,” she said, reflecting on a run to the title where she beat three players who’d been ranked No. 1. “Toughest draw in my career.”
It hasn’t been as tough this year, but she next plays fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who ousted fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-4.
Sharapova did struggle at times against Flipkens, needing more than 11 minutes to hold serve in the fourth game, when she served three double-faults and had to fend off three break points.
“I didn’t start the match really great,” Sharapova said. “I was facing a different type of opponent today and I was making a few more mistakes than I would have liked in the beginning.
“But after I held at 2-1, I really started making her play a little bit ... and I carried that throughout the match.”
“I really want to play against Maria,” Makarova said. “Now I’m pretty confident and I like my game.
“Last year I was so surprised ... and I had so many thoughts in my mind. This year I’m a little bit used to it, so I think I’ll be ready to play a good game.”
Makarova took out the highest seed to tumble so far at the season’s first major, causing another fourth round surprise like she did here last year with an upset win over Serena Williams.
“Seems like it was the same this year and last year. Unbelievable feeling,” Makarova said. “I really like to play here. The crowd is so perfect.”
Radwanska, Berdych progress
Li Na saved a set point in the tiebreaker before beating Julia Goerges 7-6 (6), 6-1. She’ll next play No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat No. 13 Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 6-4 for her 13th consecutive win.
Fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych defeated Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (13) to advance to his third consecutive Australian Open quarterfinal. Berdych fought off five set points in the third set and finally closed it out on his fifth match point when Anderson hit a forehand long.
David Ferrer had a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win over No. 16 Kei Nishikori to reach the quarterfinals, where he will meet Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.
Nishikori had won two of his previous three matches with Ferrer and was a quarterfinalist in Australia last year, but struggled with 65 unforced errors in the 2-hour, 10-minute match.
Almagro advanced, leading 6-2, 5-1 when No. 8 Janko Tipsaveric retired from their fourth round match.
It will be the first all-Spanish quarterfinal at the Australian Open since 2011, when Ferrer ended Rafael Nadal’s bid for a sequence of four consecutive major titles.
Bhupathi-Nadia in round 2
Mahesh Bhupathi entered the mixed doubles second round after scoring a straight-set win with partner Nadia Petrova.
The Indo-Russian pair dumped Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova and Dutch Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 6-2.
Bhupathi and Nadia next face Katarina Srebotnik of Slovakia and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.