Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova

MARIA Sharapova set up an enticing quarter-final showdown with Eugenie Bouchard at the Australian Open following a comfortable 6-3 6-0 fourth round victory over China’s Peng Shuai.
The second seed broke Peng twice in the first set, though she had some trouble on serve with the Chinese holding four break points, and winning one, in a marathon seventh game.
Sharapova, however, wasted little time in finishing off Peng, breaking in the first game of the second set and using that as a springboard to romp to a 75-minute victory.
The Russian will now face Bouchard, who had earlier beaten Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu in three sets, in a tantalising clash with the up-and-coming Canadian just one of several 20-year-olds challenging the established order of women’s tennis.
Twenty-year-old Bouchard was dubbed ‘the next Sharapova’ as she announced herself in a breakout 2014, and bristles at the comparison which was put to the test at the French Open semi-finals last year.
Sharapova came back from a set down to quash Bouchard that day before going on to win the title and expects another stiff test from the Canadian upstart.
“We all want to create our own path and go through our own career,” the five-times grand slam champion told reporters.
“And we’re all destined for some sort of thing. We work extremely hard at a sport, and that’s what we want to be known for.”
Canada’s first grand slam finalist Bouchard was the first into the last eight, but needed to battle through a mid-match meltdown at Rod Laver Arena.
She gave herself a pep talk during a toilet break between the second and third sets, having inexplicably conceded five games in a row and double-faulted to allow unseeded Begu back to level terms.
“I gave myself a good long hard look in the mirror and I said, ‘Genie, this is unacceptable’ and I really kind of kicked myself in the butt a little bit,” she said in a courtside interview.
There was no need for any soul searching from feisty Russian counter-puncher Ekaterina Makarova, who booked her third Melbourne Park quarter-final of the past four years with a 6-3 6-2 thrashing of Julia Goerges.
Makarova, who famously dumped favourite Serena Williams out of the 2012 tournament, will bid for a maiden semi-final in Melbourne against the winner of third seed Simona Halep and Yanina Wickmayer, the first match of the evening session.