Kerber sets up Sharapova clash of the champions

Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych shakes hands with Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro after winning their match at the Australian Open on Saturday

Maria Sharapova will take centre stage on Rod Laver Arena against Angelique Kerber in what is shaping as a fascinating encounter between the only two former Australian Open winners left in the women's draw.

Six-time Australian Open champion Djokovic continued his comeback from six months out with an injured right elbow, beating No. 21 Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.

Sharapova should be concerned.

With the temperatures a manageable 26 Celsius (79 Farenheit) at Melbourne Park after two days of oven-like conditions, the Romanian looked out for the count against American Lauren Davis.

It's another thing to be completely crushed, which was the case with Sharapova.

Osaka broke Barty to open both sets and combining 12 aces, the last on match point, with 24 winners in a ruthless display of power tennis. "So as wonderful as that run was, the combination of being exhausted from that and having a wrist that still wasn't 100 percent flawless, I just needed to kind of shut it down, calm down, and then I was really excited to start the new season".

Yes, Sharapova can get better.

Keys, the American Grand Slam champion-in-waiting, is prone to freezing up or simply failing to hit the requisite level of consistency against opponents who, at least on paper, are inferior.

Sharapova won here in Australian in 2008, capping a string of three Grand Slam championships in a five-year period. She's always unsafe, especially at the grand slams.

A fluffed drop shot attempt at 3-4 followed by an unforced error gave 2016 champion Kerber breathing space with a break and she finished the contest in the next game.


Sharapova will now square off with either Germany's 2016 Australian Open victor Angelique Kerber or Croatia's Donna Vekic in the third round. We played in Stuttgart. The Russian superstar, who won her only title on her comeback run in Tianjin past year, feels she can produce consistent results in the coming days.

Under the lights at Rod Laver Arena, Kerber's forehand did all the damage for Sharapova, who is still trying to find her feet in the women's singles after a 15-month doping ban.

Kerber - who won her first major title at the 2016 Open - proved too good for Croatia's Donna Vekic and won 6-4 6-1.

But, if all else fails her, Sharapova will always have her competitive instinct and she dug in to retrieve the break and give herself a foothold in the match. Sharapova's opponent Saturday, Kerber, is also 30.

"It's going to be a hard, difficult challenge to me", del Potro said. That would have served as an excuse early after she returned last April in Stuttgart, Germany. She played very good the last two here.

She said: "I was really trying to not think about everything around and everything about the match, against who I'm playing".

But she's been back for a while now. She showed in pure dominant form, breaking Sharapova three times to race through the opener.

No. 21 seed Angelique Kerber vs.

"I am just looking more about me, like how I will prepare, just playing my game from the first point", Kerber said. "But looking at the overall picture, the overall beginning of this year, finishing the tournament, the first thing is that I'm healthy".

"There's a lot to build from. I want to see where I am on that level".

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