MARIA MARCHES ON!
Maria Sharapova gave a near-perfect demonstration of why she is the new favourite to win the Wimbledon title as she crushed Dominika Cibulkova 6-1 6-1 under the Centre Court roof.
Cibulkova's defeat of top seed, Caroline Wozniacki on Monday – along with the exit of the Williams sisters – has led to Sharapova, the 2004 champion, being firmly fancied to win what would be her fourth grand slam.
And as if she was determined to prove why she is being backed, she took just 59 minutes to see off the Slovakian, who was unable to reach the heights of her fourth-round display.
Sharapova broke serve a stunning six times in a row to set up a semi-final meeting with Sabine Lisicki.
There was no suggestion that such a one-sided match would unfold when the pair played out a 22-shot rally on the opening point, but it was all one-way traffic after Sharapova broke in the third game when Cibulkova netted.
It was the opening Sharapova needed and, after cementing the break with a hold to love, she took her opponent's serve again to move 4-1 clear, coming back from 30-0 down with a brace of beautiful backhands – one along the ground and one on the volley.
The Russian had to call on her serve to save two break points in the next game and, as if to almost taunt her opponent, she came from 40-0 down to take the seventh game against the feed when an erratic Cibulkova cannoned a regulation forehand well wide of the court.
The procession continued into the second set, with Sharapova holding and then breaking again – her fourth in a row – although she needed a quartet of opportunities to do so.
Cibulkova clung on to save three break points but, when Sharapova found her range on the fourth, a forehand winner left Cibulkova rooted to the spot.
With Sharapova looking as though she may not lose another game, Cibulkova finally woke up and, when Sharapova netted with a close-range backhand slice, she broke back to put the second set back on serve.
The one they want to watch: All eyes are on Sharapova as she leaves Centre Court after her victory.
But with Cibulkova winning a meagre 42 per cent of the points on her first serve, she was instantly broken again – Sharapova setting up three break points with a lovely one-two forehand-backhand combination.
A simple hold followed before she broke Cibulkova to love, her forehand working metronomically as she plundered four winners with it and, although a break point had to be saved in the next game, she did so with ease and cruised through.