MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Maria Sharapova moved closer to another Australian Open title, set to face a fellow Russian in the semifinals who has never beaten her.
Sharapova made all the big points look easy Tuesday in defeating 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-2 — her fourth consecutive win over the Canadian — and advance to a semifinal against Ekaterina Makarova, who earlier beat third-seeded Simona Halep 6-4, 6-0.
“I had to produce a really good performance against Genie,” Sharapova said. “She’s been playing so confidently and aggressively.”
The last time Sharapova and Bouchard met — in the semifinals at the French Open last year — Bouchard won the first set before Sharapova came back to take the next two. Sharapova then won the title at Roland Garros.
This time, Bouchard, who made the finals of Wimbledon and two other Grand Slam semis last year, didn’t come close to taking a set, looking flat from the outset while being broken in her opening service game. The Genie Army, a group of young Australian men who croon songs about the Canadian player, was left to sing another day.
Sharapova, the 2008 Australian Open champion, has a 5-0 record against Makarova, including wins in the quarterfinals here in 2012 and 2013. In four of those losses, Makarova failed to win a set.
“She likes playing here,” Sharapova said of Makarova. “She uses that left-handed serve really well. It’s always tricky playing a lefty and your compatriot, as well, but one of us will be in the final and that makes me happy.”
It will be Makarova’s second consecutive Grand Slam semifinal. She made her first major semi at last year’s U.S. Open, losing to Serena Williams after beating Bouchard in the fourth round.
“I’m so comfortable here, it’s all the atmosphere and maybe memories from New York that I bring here,” said Makarova.
The other women’s semifinalists will be determined on Wednesday when No. 1-ranked Williams plays last year’s finalist, Dominika Cibulkova, and Venus Williams, playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in nearly five years, takes on 19-year-old American Madison Keys.
If the Williams sisters play each other in the semifinals, it would be their first meeting in a Grand Slam tournament since the Wimbledon final in 2009 — won by Serena.
Halep, last year’s French Open runner-up, was under pressure from Makarova’s array of strong forehands to all areas of the court. Serving at 5-3 in the first set, the Romanian saved two set points, but Makarova clinched the opener on the third when Halep netted a backhand.
Makarova broke Halep’s serve to open the second set, helped by a double-fault. The Russian player then saved three break points in the next game to lead 2-0 and then broke the Romanian player again before shutting out Halep the rest of the way.
The 26-year-old Makarova has had her best Grand Slam results at Melbourne Park, advancing to fourth round twice as well as those quarterfinal losses to Sharapova. Last year, she lost to eventual champion Li Na in the fourth round.
“I love this court, I’m so happy I came through,” said Makarova, who said she ate the same breakfast she’s been having all tournament — yoghurt and toast — before Tuesday’s match.
Halep said her nerves got to her.
“I was just I was a little bit stressed, I don’t know why,” the 23-year-old Halep said. “I had experience from last year to play quarterfinals, so it doesn’t mean that I felt pressure. I just I didn’t feel the game, the ball. It was a very bad day for me.”
Two men’s quarterfinals were set for later Tuesday. Rafael Nadal took on Tomas Berdych and the night match saw Andy Murray play local hope Nick Kyrgios. The winners will meet in the semifinals.
The 19-year-old Kyrgios, who beat then-No. 1 Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, defeated Andreas Seppi in the fourth round, the player who knocked Roger Federer out of the tournament.
Kyrgios is the first male player since Federer in 2001 to reach two Grand Slam quarterfinals as a teen.