Maria Sharapova advances

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Maria Sharapova defeated Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 in a lopsided matchup between Grand Slam champions on Friday night to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Sharapova and Williams have 11 majors combined -- four for the Russian, and seven for Williams.

The 32-year-old Williams broke Sharapova as the Russian was serving for the victory at 6-1, 5-1 to keep the match alive. But Sharapova was able to close it out on her next service game.

Williams could consider herself fortunate -- Sharapova's opponents in her first two matches failed to win a game from the Russian star.

Williams has only advanced past the third round once in the past two years -- at Wimbledon in 2011.

Sharapova lost the 2012 Australian Open final before going on to win at the French Open.

Three matches into this tournament, and Sharapova, who pumped her arms six or seven times after she served out with an ace, has lost just four games heading into her fourth-round match against unseeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.

"I think when we both looked at the draw, it was a match-up we were both looking forward to," Sharapova said. "She's a tremendous athlete and a great champion."

Earlier, Angelique Kerber survived some nervous moments before fending off American teenager Madison Keys, then got to blow out the candles on a cake to celebrate her 25th birthday.

The fifth-seeded Kerber won 6-2, 7-5 to move into the fourth round, farther than she's gone in six trips to the Australian Open.

Local organizers brought Kerber a cake onto the court immediately after the match and the crowd at Rod Laver Arena sang "Happy Birthday." She blew out the candles and said thank you to the crowd and to 17-year-old Keys.

"Madison is a great young player and it was very tough," said Kerber, a semifinalist last year at Wimbledon. "So happy I won today on my birthday!"

Kerber will next play No. 19 Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, who advanced after a tough 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win over 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli.

In the fourth round last year, Makarova beat Serena Williams and was the first of only four women to beat the powerful American in 2012. Kerber was the last.

Fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, meanwhile, won her 12th match in a row with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Britain's Heather Watson on the second of the show courts at Melbourne Park.

"I'm extremely happy to be playing my best tennis from the beginning of the year," said Radwanska, who won tournaments in Auckland and Sydney before coming to Melbourne. "Hopefully I'll play on the same level the rest of the tournament."

She'll next play 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, who beat Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 6-3 in a matchup featuring two Serbians who were both former top-ranked players.

Ivanovic surged to a 5-2 lead in the first set but lost the next three games. The 13th-ranked Ivanovic broke Jankovic to pull ahead 6-5 and won the first set with an ace.

The 25-year old Ivanovic had an easier time in the second set, wrapping it up on her second match point.

Sixth-seeded Li Na advanced 6-4, 6-1 over 27th-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania to a fourth-round match with No. 18 Julia Goerges, who Jie Zheng 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 .

Li won the 2011 French Open just a few months after reaching at the Australian Open.

After soaring to 106 degrees on day four, the temperature dropped into the mid-70s on Friday, and light rain briefly interrupted play on some courts.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Related Content

Around the Web