Sharapova serve fires up in time for Serena

Sun Jan 24, 2016 12:36am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Another day of reckoning looms for Maria Sharapova when she takes on long-time nemesis Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals but the Russian can at least head into the match with her serve running hot.

Runner-up to Williams last year, Sharapova booked a re-match against the American with a hard-fought 7-5 7-5 win over Swiss young gun Belinda Bencic in the early match on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

Hampered by a number of surgeries on her right shoulder since 2009, Sharapova's serve has rarely proved the difference in tight matches but her 21 aces were vital in fending off 12th seed Bencic, touted as a future grand slam winner.

The richly talented 18-year-old had a number of chances to break Sharapova in the second set but the five-times grand slam champion's serve repeatedly sprung her from jail.

The 28-year-old now leads the tournament with 52 aces, some distance from Serena's 25, though the American has had to swing her serving arm far less in reaching the quarter-finals.

"I feel like that's something I have been working on a lot since I had shoulder surgery," Sharapova told reporters.

"I have gone through many different motions to try to find my groove again and something that would hold up over many

matches.   Continued...

Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts during her fourth round match against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 24, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter