MELBOURNE, Australia - Maria Sharapova put her trademark fight on display in prime time Monday at the Australian Open, overcoming 47 unforced errors and Sabine Lisicki's huge serving to make the quarterfinals, 36 62 63.
Sharapova, the No.4 seed in Melbourne, came out very strong, winning 13 of the first 15 points of the match to lead 3-0. The No.14-seeded Lisicki went on her own run from there, winning six games in a row to take the opening set - but Sharapova had gone 12-1 in three-setters in 2011 and picked up right where she left off, getting right to work and grinding out another three set victory.
"The first three games were good, then it went south for a bit, then I got it together in the second. The third was a battle," Sharapova said afterwards. "No doubt Sabine played some really good tennis. I thought the level was pretty high tonight. She had some opportunities and some break points. A few ups and downs overall, but I'm happy to be through a step further than last year."
Last year, Sharapova lost in the fourth round to another German, Andrea Petkovic - that was, in fact, her only career loss to a German player. With her win over Lisicki on Monday night she is 18-1 lifetime against Germans.
Sharapova's movement looked sharp throughout the match, encouraging given she had some ankle injury concerns coming in. "It's a part of my game I constantly work on, being quick... It's one of the most important things in the game because it has become a lot more physical and much more demanding on the body. Also in the last few years I'm stronger and able to withstand much longer matches. I think that's why my success has been a lot better on clay.
"I'm 6'2" and I think for somebody at that height, I still feel like I can be better."
Lisicki pointed to the aforementioned break points as the keys to the third set. "It was a very good match," she said. "Unfortunately she made some great serves in the third when I had break points. Not much I could do there at that moment - she served it right on the line. But I kept fighting until the last point.
"But one year ago I was in the qualies here, and now I was so close to beating one of the best players in the world. So I'm taking a lot of positive things away.
"I'll keep working hard and we'll see how soon I can break the Top 10."
Next up for Sharapova is Ekaterina Makarova, who pulled off arguably the biggest surprise of the tournament earlier in the day, stunning five-time Australian Open champion and former No.1 Serena Williams, 62 63.
"I thought Makarova, the few points I saw, she played really solid and forced unforced errors from Serena," Sharapova said. "But whoever I play, it doesn't matter. For her to come in and win in straight sets and to play at that level means she's on a high note and confident, and that's always dangerous."