When Maria Sharapova played Alexandra Panova in the 2nd round of the 2015 Australian Open, the former world #1 looked like anything but a contender for the title. She struggled through two sets and faced a pair of match points against her. But Masha is a fighter. She fought off those match points and since escaping the upset has played like a champion. Over the past three rounds Sharapova has been the best woman in the draw. She took a much-hyped showdown with 7th seed Eugenie Bouchard and turned it into a routine 6-3 6-2 lesson in power tennis. Masha was in control from the first game and never let up. The 2008 Australian Open champion reaches her 7th semifinal in Melbourne, where she will face fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova. The 10th seeded Makarova blew through 3rd seed Simona Halep, 6-4 6-0. The first set score appears tight, but it really wasn’t that close. I was quite disappointed with Simona’s effort, to be honest. Winning and losing happens. Sometimes the opponent is just better on a given day, as Kate was on this day. But it kind of seemed like Halep didn’t have much fight in her. Even when Serena Williams is rolling through Sharapova at times, Masha never stops going for it and fighting to the last point. Simona says she felt “stressed” once the match started. In the end, Kate deserved the victory. She pushed Halep around with big ground strokes and let’s face it, Makarova is underrated. This is her 2nd straight Major semifinal. She is a player on the rise. Sharapova has not lost to a fellow Russian player in a Major in over five years. Can Kate break that streak?
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2 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 6-3 6-2 vs 7 Eugenie Bouchard)
10 EKATERINA MAKAROVA (won 6-4 6-0 vs 3 Simona Halep)