Maria Sharapova plays hometown hero Ashleigh Barty for a place in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday as the Russian eyes a first Grand Slam crown since 2014, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also resuming their title hunt.
The five-time major winner claimed her biggest scalp since completing a drugs ban in 2017 when she rolled defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in round three.
It set her up with a tricky clash against in-form Barty who will have huge home support on Rod Laver Arena in a prime-time afternoon showdown.
Sharapova, who once famously summed up her attitude as “I’m not here to make friends”, said she would not let the crowd affect her.
“I know it’s going to be a tough crowd, but I go out there to perform and play tennis,” said the Russian, who won at Melbourne Park in 2008 and hasn’t lifted a Slam trophy since the 2014 French Open.
The diminutive Barty, 22, has been in sizzling form, winning six of seven matches this year to back up a title victory in Zhuhai late last year.
Whoever wins will have a last eight meeting with either eighth seed Petra Kvitova or surprise package Amanda Anisimova, who is just 17.
In the other women’s last 16 match-ups, second seed and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber faces unseeded American Danielle Collins, while fifth seed Sloane Stephens takes on Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Federer and Nadal, with 37 Grand Slam titles between them, have so far been in fine fettle.
The Swiss great, the double defending champion who is targeting a record seventh crown at Melbourne Park, has a tough evening test against young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded 14.
Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” he said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam.”
The reward for the winner is a quarter-final against either Marin Cilic, who Federer beat in the final last year, or Roberto Bautista Agut, the man who ended Andy Murray’s tournament and possibly his career.
Nadal also has a testing encounter with fellow veteran Tomas Berdych, who reached the semi-finals in Melbourne in 2014 and 2015 but is unseeded this year after an injury layoff.
Whoever comes through that clash will meet either 20th seed Grigor Dimitrov or unseeded American youngster Frances Tiafoe.
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