Sharapova advances after straight sets victory

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The Independent Online

Maria Sharapova reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time in five years today with a straight sets victory over Peng Shuai.

Sharapova, the 2004 champion, withstood some early pressure on her own serve from Peng before turning on the style to complete a comprehensive 6-4 6-2 win.

The Russian fifth seed has yet to drop a set in the championships and will face either Caroline Wozniacki or Dominika Cibulkova, who were next on Court Two, in the quarter-finals.

Sharapova had beaten Peng twice in their previous three meetings, including a three-set victory in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells earlier this year.

The three-time grand slam champion had to battle hard today as well - at least in the opening exchanges.

The one weakness is Sharapova's game at present is the inconsistency of her first serve, which caused her problems in the second round against British 17-year-old Laura Robson.

Sharapova only committed 10 unforced errors in the match but four of those were double faults - including one in her opening service game which gifted Peng the first of two early break points.

But Peng, making her debut in the Wimbledon fourth round, failed to take either and Sharapova ensured she did not get another look-in.

Sharapova clicked up a gear to break Peng for a 5-4 lead, sending the Chinese 25-year-old out wide with a fierce cross-court backhand before charging the net.

The Russian was mixing her game up well. She struck 19 winners in the set and was comfortable at the net, even against a player with such an impressive doubles pedigree as Peng.

And having secured the break, Sharapova served out for the set and then kept winning games, making it seven in a row as she broke Peng twice and raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set.

Sharapova was playing some near-faultless tennis as she took control, forcing Peng to push the envelope in the hope of finding a way back.

There was none. Peng held serve twice but it simply delayed Sharapova's inevitable path back into a Wimbledon quarter-final.

"Last year I lost in the fourth to Serena (Williams) and this year I find myself in the quarter-finals and I'm giving myself an opportunity to go even further," she said.

Sharapova has been reinstalled as title favourite - the position she held coming into the championships - following Serena Williams' defeat today.

"I'm in the quarters here for the first time since 2006. It's only going to get tougher from here," said Sharapova.

"I want to be even better, I want to keep improving. I still feel like I can. I just hope that I raise my level even more.

"It was really tough today because both of us served quite well to hold in the first eight games. I thought it was a high level of tennis.

"She just served well, served a few aces, and I couldn't break her. I thought I returned much better in the second set. That's what got me more breaks."