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Sharapova into Open semi-finals

Russia's Maria Sharapova cruised into the semi-finals of the Australian Open when she defeated fellow countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets on Wednesday.

The former champion easily handled 56th-ranked Makarova's left-handed serves and overpowered her in the baseline rallies to win 6-2, 6-3 and set up a semi-final against Petra Kvitova.

The semi-final will be a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final, which Kvitova won 6-3, 6-4 to claim her first grand slam title.

"I lost to her the last couple of times I played her," Sharapova said of Kvitova. "She's the one to beat, she's full of confidence and she's playing the best on tour."

It is the first time Sharapova has reached the final four in Melbourne since she won the title in 2008, the latest of her three major trophies after Wimbledon 2004 and the US Open 2006.

Sharapova started brilliantly against Makarova and had her under pressure from the very beginning, holding her own serve with ease and pressuring her opponent's.

Makarova couldn't handle the pressure and cracked in the fourth game then again in the eighth to hand Sharapova the first set in 43 minutes.

She had a glimmer of hope when she broke Sharapova early in the second set, only to give it straight back with a poor service game. Sharapova needed no second invitation and raced away to a 5-2 lead.

She had her first match point on Makarova's serve, and then two more on her own before clinching the quarter-final on her fourth opportunity when a Makarova forehand sailed long over the baseline.

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