January 25, 2012 in Sports

Sharapova storms into semifinals

Caroline Cheese Associated Press
 

MELBOURNE, Australia – Former and reigning Wimbledon winners Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova will meet in the Australian Open semifinals after both won in straight sets today.

Sharapova won 6-2, 6-3 against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who knocked out five-time champion Serena Williams in the previous round.

Kvitova reached the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over unseeded Italian Sara Errani.

Kvitova beat Sharapova in last year’s Wimbledon final to claim her first Grand Slam title.

“Obviously, it was a tough one at Wimbledon,” Sharapova said. “She’s full of confidence and playing the best tennis right now. I look forward to it.”

Sharapova and Kvitova also kept alive their chances of claiming the top ranking, which Caroline Wozniacki will vacate Monday after her quarterfinal loss to Kim Clijsters.

The fourth-seeded Sharapova must repeat her 2008 Australian title win. Kvitova only has to match or better the run of Victoria Azarenka, the only other player still in the running this week for the No. 1 spot.

Sharapova has dropped one set and lost 21 games en route to her first Australian Open semifinal since she won the 2008 final – the last of her three major titles.

“It’s been a long road back to this stage,” said Sharapova, who spent 10 months off court with a shoulder injury that required surgery later in 2008.

Kvitova was far from her best against an opponent making her debut in a Grand Slam quarterfinal, and with a 0-24 record against top-10 players. The second-seeded Czech made 44 errors and had to come back from a break down in the second set.

The men’s semifinal lineup also will be completed today.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic is up against fifth-seeded David Ferrer in the first match of the night session. Two-time finalist Andy Murray defeated Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.

Two of the so-called “Big Four,” Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, are already through to a marquee semifinal after winning today.

Federer beat 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in his 1,000th tour-level match. Nadal rallied for a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3 win over Tomas Berdych.

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