Melbourne: Maria Sharapova's biggest challenge to achieving her second Australian Open title, apart from Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, could actually be between her ears.
Not that anyone has managed to exploit any mental deficiencies in the world No.2 yet. The Russian not only continued her perfect run in Australian Open quarter finals on Tuesday by swatting aside Russian compatriot Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-2 to set up a semi-final against Li Na, she also set a record at the Grand Slam.
With her 66-minute victory, Sharapova has now dropped just nine games in total, the fewest number conceded by a semi-finalist at the tournament.
Monica Seles conceded 12 games on her way to the 1991 semi-finals. Seles went on to win the title.
The world No.2, along with defending champion Azarenka and 15-time Grand Slam winner Williams, have been a class above the rest of the women's draw at Melbourne Park with few now expecting anyone other than the trio to win the title.
Sharapova has refused to get too far ahead of herself, dragging out the "one match at a time" cliche after each round, though she said after her demolition of Makarova that she was pleased she was staying mentally switched on during matches despite their one-sided nature.
"That's always one of the toughest things, keeping that focus, especially when you have when you feel like you're doing the right things and you have your opponent in the right position," Sharapova said.
"You really have to follow through with what you've done and keep doing it (and) keeping your head in the right direction."
The right direction is lifting the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy for the second time and Sharapova came into the quarter-final brimming with confidence.
The 24-year-old Makarova was expected to be a tough opponent having already beaten 11th seed Marion Bartoli and fifth seed Angelique Kerber to make the quarter-finals and despite Sharapova's rampage through the four previous rounds, she thought her 19th-seeded compatriot would be a challenge.
"She's beaten quality players over the course of last week, and I know that she's capable of playing really good, with deep hitting," Sharapova said. (Agencies)