21st seed Angelique Kerber remained unbeaten in 2018 on Saturday after easing past five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova in a highly impressive performance at the Australian Open.
Kerber and Sharapova were the only previous Australian Open champions in the draw and by this meeting were the only Grand Slam champions left in the tournament, with many believing that this could be an incredibly tight encounter. However, Kerber was simply far too good for Sharapova when it boiled down to it, with the 2016 champion easing past the 2008 champion 6-1, 6-3 in just an hour and four minutes.
Kerber controls match to storm past Sharapova
The two had not played since 2015, though both their last fwo meetings had been thrilling three-set matches. Kerber prevailed in both those meetings, and did not struggle as much to secure victory today as she impressed from the very start to win.
It was undoubtedly a sharp start by the 22nd seed, who broke early on to secure a quick 2-0 lead out on the Rod Laver Arena. It was seemingly important for Sharapova to get on board, and she did just that, saving break points to hold, though that proved to have little effect on the set. The Russian was unable to hurt Kerber, who began to take complete control and who raced to a 5-1 lead. Sharapova arguably needed to send a small statement when serving to stay in the set, but failed to do so, with Kerber breaking to love to take the opener following 29 minutes of impressive tennis from her.
After such a dominant first set, it seemed that Kerber could completely run away with the match as she broke early on for a 2-0 lead in the second set. However, Sharapova immediately broke back to get back on level terms, and for some of the set, the match became more competitive as the Russian began to test the German. Sharapova had chances to break at 3-3, though errors meant she missed out on what was a crucial opportunity. With a slight drop in the Russian’s level once again, Kerber began to dictate and force errors out of her opponent; the 2016 champion broke once again for a 5-3 lead and served out the match to love to complete a dominant victory
Though this match may have shown how far Sharapova, currently ranked 48th, still has to go to get back into Grand Slam winning form, it also showed that Kerber is once again playing incredibly well and is undoubtedly a huge contender for the title this year. Hsieh Su-Wei awaits in the fourth round.