Maria Sharapova was all business as she raced into the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday to set up a glamour showdown with rising star Eugenie Bouchard.
The world number two ended Chinese hopes by swatting aside 21st seed Peng Shuai 6-3, 6-0 as she continues to lift her game the deeper she gets in the tournament.
It hands organisers a dream last eight clash between two of the most marketable players on tour with Canadian seventh seed Bouchard surviving a mid-match slump to defeat unseeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in three sets.
Russian 10th seed Ekaterina Makarova also progressed, blitzing unseeded German Julia Goerges 6-3, 6-2 to maintain her no-nonsense form.
She is yet to drop a set and will next play the winner of the night match between third seeded Romanian Simona Halep and unseeded Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.
The men’s big guns were in action later Sunday with 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal facing power-hitting South African Kevin Anderson, seeded 14.
Australian hope Bernard Tomic was to take on tenacious Czech Tomas Berdych while his compatriot Nick Kyrgios will attempt to down Roger Federer’s shock conquerer Andreas Seppi of Italy.
Britain’s Andy Murray had a tough task against Sharapova’s boyfriend and 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Sharapova, gunning for a sixth Grand Slam title and her first in Australia since 2008, said her match against Peng was tougher than the score suggested.
“I’ve always had a little trouble against Peng Shuai, she’s a really tough competitor. She plays the ball hard and flat, she’s a bit untraditional using two hands on both sides,” she said.
The Russian added that Bouchard, the tour’s most consistent performer at Grand Slams last year who pushed her in their French Open semi-final, would be another big challenge.
“It was a really tough three setter,” she said, referring to the Roland Garros clash.
“She’s been playing incredibly well, confident aggressive tennis. I have a tough match ahead of me.”
– Go for shots –
The popular Bouchard is widely seen as a future major champion after her semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park last year, a feat she matched in Paris before making the Wimbledon final.
It didn’t go all her way against Begu, who sparked to life in the second set to push the 20-year-old to a third before the ambitious Canadian won 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.
She said she was disappointed by her mini slump.
“I learned a lot from it and I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen next time,” she said. “I’m happy that I could regroup and play a bit better tennis in the third.”
Bouchard has met Sharapova three times before and lost each one, a statistic that doesn’t sit well with her.
“I think I’ve progressed a lot since then and I definitely want to keep playing my game no matter what,” she said.
“Really take it to her, go for my shots. That’s what I want to do on the court. And it’s more fun when I play that way too.”
Makarova has ghosted into the last eight as she doggedly hunts for a first Grand Slam title at her 30th attempt.
“I’m happy that I showed my best tennis today,” she said. “I was comfortable. We’d never played before so I didn’t really know what to expect.”
It is the third time the 26-year-old has made the quarters in Melbourne after strong runs in 2012 and 2013. She also appeared in the last 16 in 2014 and in 2011, making the Australian Open her most consistent major.
“I don’t know what it is, something special for me, but I’m really happy to be here,” she said. – Agence France-Presse