Victoria Azarenka of Belarus hits a return to American Jamie Hampton during their third round match at the Australian Open on Saturday.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova leaned back and pumped her arms. She ripped her elbows back and forth, screaming after her victory. Four pumps, five — she rocked forward — six pumps .
Sharapova had just defeated Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 Friday, her first victory over the seven-time major winner in a Grand Slam. This was a match clearly worth celebrating, but it was like Sharapova had won the Australian Open eight days early.
“I was just really pumped,” she said. “Why shouldn’t I be?”
After back-to-back 6-0, 6-0 wins in the first two rounds — the first time that happened at a major since 1985 — Sharapova has conceded the fewest number of games en route to the fourth round at the Australian Open since Steffi Graf did so 24 years ago. Graf also lost only four games in her first three matches on her way to the second of her three consecutive titles in Melbourne.
The top two contenders on the opposite side of the draw, defending champion Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, play one after the other at Rod Laver Arena today. Top-ranked Azarenka is first up against American Jamie Hampton, followed by Williams against Ayumi Morita of Japan.
U.S. Open champion Andy Murray follows them in a third-round match against occasional hitting partner Ricardas Berankis, a qualifier from Lithuania. Four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer has the night match against Bernard Tomic, the last Aussie in the men’s or women’s draws.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic took another step closer to a third consecutive Australian title, defeating Radek Stepanek, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 in the third round.
Djokovic will play Sunday against No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka, who knocked out the last American man in the draw with a 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-4 win against No. 20 Sam Querrey.
In the last match of the day, fourth-seeded David Ferrer finished off a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 win against 2006 Australian finalist Marcos Baghdatis with an ace, advancing to a fourth-round match against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
No. 5 Tomas Berdych beat Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, and will next play South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, who beat No. 22 Fernando Verdasco, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Djokovic’s Serbian Davis Cup teammate Janko Tipsarevic advanced to a meeting with No. 10 Nicolas Almagro.
In an all-Serbian match of two former No. 1 women, 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic beat Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 6-3. She moved into the fourth round against Poland’s Angieszka Radwanska, who is seeded No. 4 and won her 12th straight match — including titles at Auckland and Sydney — with a 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Britain’s Heather Watson.
No. 5 Angelique Kerber and No. 19 Ekaterina Makarova, two of the four women who beat Serena Williams in 2012, will meet in the fourth round. Kerber stopped 17-year-old American Madison Keys, 6-2, 7-5, in the opening match at Rod Laver Arena, then blew out the candles on a cake to celebrate her 25th birthday.
Makarova, who beat Williams in the fourth round in Australia last year, had a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 win over 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli.
No. 6 Li Na, the 2011 French Open winner, eliminated No. 27 Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4, 6-1 and will next play No. 18 Julia Goerges. Goerges prevented an all-China fourth-round encounter by beating Zheng Jie 6-3, 1-6, 7-5. Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium beat Valeria Savinykh 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and is up against Sharapova next.