Australian Open 2013: Maria Sharapova Poised for Second Championship

Marques EversollAnalyst IJanuary 22, 2013

Sharapova has been dominant in the Aussie Open so far, but will it continue?
Sharapova has been dominant in the Aussie Open so far, but will it continue?Julian Finney/Getty Images

Maria Sharapova has been dominant thus far in the Australian Open and will now face Li Na in the semifinals.

Per ESPN, Sharapova has been on the court for only five hours and 15 minutes throughout the tournament. She dominated her opening-round matchup with a pair of 6-0 wins before cruising past Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3. Sharapova easily defeated Kristen Flipkins in the fourth round and eliminated Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets on Tuesday.

Sharapova has been sensational.

Last year at the Australian Open, Sharapova lost in the finals to Victoria Azarenka, the No.1-ranked player in the world. Azarenka will face two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Wendesday. The quarterfinals will be finalized in a match between two Americans—Serena Williams and 19-year-old Sloane Stephens.

Williams has her sights set on a third consecutive major title after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2012.

Sharapova's road to winning the Aussie Open will not be easy. Her opponent in the semifinals, Na, is making her third trip to the semifinals in the past four years at the tournament. And even if Sharapova advances to the finals, she will get all she can handle from whoever advances from the other side.

Whether it's Williams or Azarenka, the Australian Open final on the women's side will certainly be tennis at its finest.

But currently, nobody in the field is playing as well or as confidently as Sharapova.

The Aussie Open is Sharapova's first tournament of the 2013 season. Sharapova pulled out of the Brisbane International earlier this month with a sore collarbone, although she has yet to show any ill effects from the injury in Melbourne.

After a disappointing loss in the finals last year, Sharapova bounced back and won the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam of the majors.

Now, her sets are set on winning the Aussie Open for a second time. Sharapova won in 2008, becoming the first Russian woman to ever win the tournament by defeating Ana Ivanovic in the finals.

Sharapova avoided Williams that year, as Serena was defeated by Jelena Janković in the quarterfinals. Williams is playing extremely well right now and figures to advance into the semifinals with a win over her teenage protege.

Sharapova, Williams and Azarenka entered the tournament as heavy favorites on the women's side. The big three have won 26 of 27 sets and dropped a combined 37 games in Melbourned.

It certainly appears to be a collision course to the finals for Sharapova and either Williams or Azarenka.

But if the action up to this point is any indication, Sharapova looks to be headed for her second Australian Open championship.