Seven-time grand slam champion Venus Williams became just another Maria Sharapova victim as the Russian took her astonishing Australian Open start up a notch in the third round on Friday night.
Sharapova, 25, whose preparation for the tournament was limited by a collarbone injury, had gone through the first two rounds without losing a game, blitzing fellow Russian Olga Puchkova and Japan’s Misaki Doi.
Williams at least made it onto the scoreboard as Sharapova won 6-1 6-3.
Sharapova’s concession of just four games over the first three rounds equals German great Steffi Graf’s 1989 mark as the fewest conceded by any woman to that stage of the Open since the move to 128-player draws in 1988.
‘‘I think the reason I started so well in this tournament is because I knew that I had to,’’ Sharapova said.
‘‘I knew I was coming in without any match play.’’
Sharapova said she was happy with her form, given that backdrop, but felt there was still room for improvement.
Williams had been expected to give the No.2 seed her first real fight of the tournament, despite the 32-year-old no longer playing at the standard that netted her two US Open and five Wimbledon titles between 2000-08 and helped the American to the world No.1 ranking in 2002.
But Sharapova, who won the Open in 2008 and lost last year’s final to Victoria Azarenka, dominated from the start.
She won the first four games, making it 28 in succession to start her tournament, before Williams held serve to ensure she would avoid a complete whitewash.
It was a blip in the Sharapova steamroll.
It was only when Sharapova first served for the match at 5-1 that Williams provided substantial resistance, breaking serve for the first time.
That prolonged the match for only two more games.
But it at least meant Williams avoided equalling the worst scoreline of her 264-match grand slam career, her 6-1 6-1 loss to Martina Hingis in the semi-finals of the 2001 Australian Open.
Sharapova will meet unseeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the fourth round, after Flipkens beat Russia’s Valeria Savinykh on Friday.