Superb Sharapova storms past Venus Williams
Belgian Flipkens awaits No. 2 Sharapova next
Second seed Maria Sharapova dropped just four games on Friday as she swept aside six-time grand slam winner Venus Williams 6-1 6-3 in the third round of the Australian Open.
The win continued Sharapova's imperious recent of form. The Russian, a winner of the Melbourne event in 2008, became the first woman to not concede a single game in her first two matches at a grand slam since 1985.
Sharapova lost to world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in last year's final, but she already looks well placed to go one better in 2013 ahead of a fourth round encounter with Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens.
Former world No. 1 Williams has endured a tough time since winning her most recent grand slam title in 2008. She was forced to withdraw from the 2011 U.S. Open having been diagnosed with the auto immune disorder Sjogren's syndrome.
"I was a really determined player out there because I knew the tennis she's capable of producing and playing," Sharapova told reporters.
"Despite what she's ranked or seeded, it doesn't matter when you go out on the court. She's been there.
"She's experienced enough to know no matter if you're playing the third round, the quarters or the final, you have to be ready.
"I certainly was. Since the draw came out, I was really looking forward to that match-up."
It was a good day for the top seeds in the women's draw, with Chinese No. 6 seed Li Na easing past Romanian No. 27 Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-1.
Li, who became Asia's first grand slam singles champion when she triumphed at the 2011 French Open, remains on course for a semifinal meeting with Sharapova, provided she can progress from her round four match with 18th seed Julia Goerges.
Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska was rarely troubled as she beat British No. 1 Heather Watson 6-3 6-1. The 2012 Wimbledon runner-up will now play former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, who advanced from an all-Serbian encounter with Jelena Jankovic.
German Angelique Kerber ended U.S. rookie Madison Keys' run at her first grand slam. The fifth seed progressed courtesy of a 6-2 7-5 success.
In the men's draw, top seed Novak Djokovic was made to work on his way to a 6-4 6-3 7-5 win against Czech Radek Stepanek.
Next up for the defending champion is Switzerland Stanislas Wawrinka after the No. 15 got the better of American Sam Querrey.
"I wasn't expecting an easy match coming into the third round and playing a seeded player," Djokovic told a post-match press conference, on the same day he also condemned former seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
"(Stepanek) loves the big stage. You saw how much fun he had. I also had a lot of fun playing. It was a very entertaining match."
Djokovic's fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic was made to work for his spot in round four.
The world No. 8 came from two sets to one down to win 3-6 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-3 in a match which lasted three-and-a-half-hours.
Fourth seed David Ferrer and No.5 Tomas Berdych both continued their strong starts to the tournament.
Spain's Ferrer recorded a 6-4 6-2 6-3 win over 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis, while Berdych of the Czech Republic eased to a 6-3 6-2 6-2 success against Austrian Jurgen Melzer.