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Makarova eager to face rampant Sharapova

By Greg Stutchbury

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Russian Ekaterina Makarova is eager to meet Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Tuesday even though her compatriot has been one of the dominant women players of the tournament.

The 19th seed met Sharapova in the same round last year at Melbourne Park, with the world number two recording a 6-2 6-3 victory and Makarova is keen on seeing if she has the game to match it with the world's best.

"I really want to play against her," Makarova said. "During last year we played lot of times, and I never beat her.

"So I'm really interested to play against her. She's in good form now, in good shape. I hope I show my good tennis again."

Makarova had entered last year's quarter-final against Sharapova having beaten Serena Williams. Makarova was then ranked 52nd in the world.

This year, she was seeded but still managed to upset a top-10 player when she beat fifth seed Angelique Kerber in the fourth round. She also beat 11th seed Marion Bartoli in the third round and Sharapova was not taking her lightly.

"I have to do the right things to beat her," she said.

"If I win that, it's moving on to the next one. That's how I go about a tournament, a grand slam.

"Obviously I want to be playing my best tennis towards the end of the second week."

While Sharapova has overpowered her opponents, tennis purists should be looking forward to the first match in the quarter-finals with world number four Agnieszka Radwanska playing China's sixth-seed Li Na.

Radwanska and Li are renowned more for their touch and construction of points rather than relying on the power game that the top three seeds Victoria Azarenka, Sharapova and Serena Williams have utilized ruthlessly in the tournament.

"It's never easy playing against her," Radwanska said of the 2011 French Open champion. "She's a very consistent player and moving very well, serving well.

"We played in Sydney. It was really tough match (and)... I really have to play... hundred percent to beat her."

Men's champion Novak Djokovic, who was forced into a five hour, five set marathon against Stanislas Wawrinka has been given some respite from that clash, with his match against Tomas Berdych the first match in the night session.

The winner of the Djokovic-Berdych match will face either fourth seed David Ferrer or his Spanish compatriot 10th seed Nicolas Almagro in the semi-finals.

Almagro has not beaten Ferrer in 12 previous clashes but his eyes are firmly set on ending that streak and moving into his first grand slam semi-final.

"(It) is a big opportunity for me to be in a semi-final," Almagro said.

"I'm ready to fight. I'm healthy and I'm happy with my tennis. I think I'm playing really good.

"We'll see what happens."

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

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