For the second straight year, Serena faced a Russian in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Stunned by Makarova here a year ago, she spared no effort in scripting a different narrative on Monday night, when she extended her perfect record against Maria Kirilenko with a convincing 6-2 6-0 win. While this counterpuncher had taken her to three sets in two previous matches, Serena offered her no opportunity to assert herself in a match that her far superior power controlled from the beginning.
As gusts swirled fitfully around Rod Laver Arena, Serena delivered an early statement of supremacy by pounding four aces in her first two service games. Not allowed a sniff on her opponent’s serve, Kirilenko escaped her opening service game after the American missed two returns from deuce. The slender Russian received no such good fortune on the second, however, for Serena measured her groundstrokes smoothly and forced errors caused by her overwhelming pace. An errant backhand handed her the break, which she consolidated with another routine hold as Kirilenko already looked resigned to her fate. Known for agile moment, she could not track down more than a shot or two before Serena found the opening, and her short wingspan left her vulnerable to wide serves.
A love hold for each woman brought the score to 5-2 in Serena’s favor as the match settled into a lull. In the next game, fierce returns allowed her to take control of the rally from the outset. Approaching the net, she finished off points with swing volleys that left Kirilenko stranded. A routine error conceded the first set and left all of the momentum in Serena’s corner to start the second. She reeled off 14 of 15 points during a span that transitioned from one set to the next, managing to consistently find first serves and her groundstroke targets despite the wind.
When Kirilenko conceded her first service game of the second set with two loose forehands, she seemed essentially doomed in view of her opponent’s magnificent first-serve percentage. Serena collected an insurance break with a forehand return winner that ended any suspense regarding the proceedings. As Kirilenko accepted the futility of resistance, a second-set bagel assured her passage to the Australian Open quarterfinal for the first time since 2010. There, Serena will face compatriot Sloane Stephens, whom she faced in Brisbane earlier this month. Just one match beyond then lies a highly anticipated semifinal with Victoria Azarenka, whom she aims to supplant next week as the women’s #1.