MELBOURNE, Jan 18: A rampant Maria Sharapova blitzed Venus Williams Friday as she led a parade of top women's seeds into the Australian Open fourth round.
The Russian second seed crushed the veteran American 6-1, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena and has now won 36 of the 40 games she has played at the opening Grand Slam of the season. None of the top names was troubled with Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Li Na all progressing.
Seeded four, five and six respectively, they were joined by Ana Ivanovic, who won a battle of former world number ones by beating fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic.
Sharapova, who lifted the trophy at Melbourne Park in 2008 and was beaten in the final last year by Victoria Azarenka, next plays Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who overcame Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh.
The world number two has been in irresistible form, becoming the first person to score two 'double bagel' 6-0, 6-0 Grand Slam wins in a row since 1985 in her opening two matches. She failed to make it three against Williams, but gave it her best shot.
“We know each other's games very well,” she said. “A lot of it is about executing from our own sides. I thought I did a good job of what I had in my head and what I wanted to accomplish out there today.”
Williams is only seeded 25 as she makes her way back from injury and illness, but was completely outplayed.
While Sharapova is looking unbeatable, Poland's Radwanska is the form player this year, winning her 12th match in a row without dropping a set in her best ever start to a season.
The world number four proved too strong for Britain's Heather Watson in a 6-3, 6-1 thumping as she searches for her first Grand Slam title.
Radwanska, who won lead-up tournaments in Auckland and Sydney, next faces 13th seed Ivanovic who eased past Jankovic 7-5, 6-3.
In the men’s event, Novak Djokovic won an entertaining clash with Czech crowd-pleaser Radek Stepanek to move towards the tournament's first title hat-trick since the 1960s.
World number one Djokovic played some exhibition-style points with Stepanek but still kept enough focus to win 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.
Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych, Japan's Kei Nishikori, Janko Tipsarevic and Nicolas Almagro all went through, while South Africa's Kevin Anderson upset former semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco.
Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer ousted 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis to set up a last-16 clash with Nishikori.
Third round: Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Radek Stepanek (CZE x31) 6-4, 6-3, 7-5; Kevin Anderson (RSA) bt Fernando Verdasco (ESP x22) 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2; Janko Tipsarevic (SRB x8) bt Julien Benneteau (FRA x32) 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3; Kei Nishikori (JPN x16) bt Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) 7-6 (7/3), 6-2, 6-3; Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI x15) bt Sam Querrey (USA x20) 7-6 (8/6), 7-5, 6-4; Nicolas Almagro (ESP x10) v Jerzy Janowicz (POL x24) 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4), 6-1; Tomas Berdych (CZE x5) bt Jurgen Melzer (AUT x26) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2; David Ferrer (ESP x4) bt Marcos Baghdatis (CYP x28) 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.
Third round: Julia Goerges (GER x18) bt Zheng Jie (CHN) 6-3, 1-6, 7-5; Angelique Kerber (GER x5) bt Madison Keys (USA) 6-2, 7-5; Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x4) bt Heather Watson (GBR) 6-3, 6-1; Li Na (CHN x6) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM x27) 6-4, 6-1; Ana Ivanovic (SRB x13) bt Jelena Jankovic (SRB x22) 7-5, 6-3; Ekaterina Makarova (RUS x19) bt Marion Bartoli (FRA x11) 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-4; Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) bt Valeria Savinykh (RUS) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3; Maria Sharapova (RUS x2) bt Venus Williams (USA x25) 6-1, 6-3.—AFP