Kerber downs Sharapova in Melbourne masterclass
Angelique Kerber produced a masterclass to dominate Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-3 and reach the Australian Open fourth round.
Former world number one Kerber, champion at Melbourne Park two years ago, is approaching the sort of form that saw reach the top of the rankings having endured a miserable 2017.
The two-time grand slam champion, who had just seven unforced errors throughout, was powerful at the baseline and neat with the touch to leave Sharapova - an Australian Open victor exactly 10 years ago - largely chasing shadows.
It represents a third straight win for Kerber over Sharapova to level their head-to-head at 4-4, and on this evidence the 21st seed - who is the last grand slam champion left in the draw - looks a real contender.
Only one former #AusOpen< champion remains...-- #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2018
Our 21st seed @AngeliqueKerber continues her impressive run of form to advance to the 4R d 2008 champion Maria #Sharapova 6-1 6-3 in 64mins. pic.twitter.com/ptYpISoGb5
Kerber was in the ascendancy from the start and a pin-point return onto Sharapova's toes was unreturnable and drew the first break.
The German was landing blow after blow onto Sharapova's baseline and was in fine touch, one particularly brilliant backhand drop on the run to the net drawing a rousing ovation.
Sharapova struggled to get into the rallies, and a fine forehand winner followed by more excellent work at the baseline brought up two break points in game five, the second of which was converted.
A rasping forehand drive in game seven set the tone for a third break to clinch the set, and Sharapova's misery continued as a costly double fault followed by a long forehand gifted Kerber a 2-0 lead in the second.
Sharapova fought back to level at 2-2 and had another break-point chance in game seven, but she missed the opportunity by putting a forehand wide.
And Kerber made the most of the reprieve, winning a 16-shot rally in the next game to set up break point that she converted before easily serving out for the match, earning a round-four tie with either Agnieszka Radwanska or Hsieh Su-wei.
Kerber  bt Sharapova 6-1 6-3
Kerber - 12/7
Sharapova - 15/26
Kerber - 1/2
Sharapova - 1/2
BREAK POINTS WON
Kerber - 5/8
Sharapova - 1/4
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Kerber - 64
Sharapova - 63
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Kerber - 86/38
Sharapova - 38/47
Kerber - 58
Sharapova - 33