Angelique Kerber thumps Maria Sharapova and sends out Australian Open statement

Charlie Eccleshare
Angelique Kerber celebrates a hugely impressive win over Maria Sharapova - Getty Images AsiaPac

9:51AM

Statement win

I'm not sure anyone produces such endearing verbal diarrhoea as Kerber in post-match interviews. Speaking at about a thousand words a minute, Kerber expresses her love for the court and for the Australian Open fans. She also described how much she is benefitting from working with new coach Wim Fissette. 

Kerber plays Agnieszka Radwanska or Hsieh Su-wei in the fourth round, and surely she must now be considered the tournament favourite.

9:45AM

Game, set and match! Kerber defeats Sharapova 6-1, 6-3

An ace, a missed Sharapova backhand and a Kerber forehand winner bring up three match points at 40-0. Sharapova saves the first one, but then sprays a backhand well wide. Kerber screams "come on!" in celebration. What a win for Kerber, who looks seriously revved up after that win. 

The 2016 champion looks better than ever and is into the Australian Open fourth round. 

9:42AM

Sharapova 1-6, 3-5 Kerber* (*next server) - Kerber breaks

Huge moment coming up here. Sharapova aces for 15-0 but then double faults and then misses two backhands to gift her opponent two break points at 15-40. Kerber only needs one, as Sharapova nets a forehand! Really loose last couple of games from the Russian, just when it looked like she was getting a  foothold. 

Kerber will serve for a place in the fourth round. 

9:37AM

Sharapova* 1-6, 3-4 Kerber (*next server) - Kerber saves a break point and holds

The first set was enjoyable to watch because of Kerber's brilliance, but now the match is becoming a whole lot more interesting because both players are raising the other's level. Two forehand winners and then a backhand return winner take Sharapova to break point at 30-40. Sensational hitting, can she take the break point? No! Sharapova sends a forehand long, and Kerber lets out a piercing scream of "come on" in celebration. Two more errors then follow from the Russion, and Kerber clings on to her serve. That break point was on Sharapova's racket. How much will she regret not taking it?

Credit: Getty Images

9:33AM

Sharapova 1-6, 3-3 Kerber* (*next server)

That is a big statement from Sharapova. A love hold, and she's belatedly starting to boss her opponent around from the back of the court. A big serve-forehand smash combo seals the game. 

9:29AM

Sharapova* 1-6, 2-3 Kerber (*next server)

Very solid serving from Kerber this game. She picks up three cheap points with deep first serves, and then seals the game with a superb crosscourt backhand winner. A loud cry of  "come on" rings around the Rod Laver Arena. 

9:27AM

Sharapova 1-6, 2-2 Kerber* (*next server)

Credit Sharapova, she's really upped her level here. The pressure looks to be on at 30-30, but she produces a sensational running forehand winner up the line. Kerber then sends a forehand long, and we're back level in the second set. 

Credit: AFP

9:22AM

Sharapova* 1-6, 1-2 Kerber (*next server) - Sharapova breaks back

Have we just seen a shift in momentum? Kerber throws in a really loose game, and Sharapova secures her first break of the match. A double fault and two unforced errors see Kerber down 0-40, and though she saves the first two break points, a missed backhand gifts the break back to Sharapova. 

Game on?  

9:18AM

Sharapova 1-6, 0-2 Kerber* (*next server) - Kerber breaks

As the world No 1 last year, Kerber played as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. So far this year, she's looked liberated and is hitting the ball so freely. Today has been a case in point, and she breaks yet again here - this time to 15, as Sharapova serves a double fault and then sprays a backhand long. That was a really poor game from the Russian. 

9:15AM

Sharapova* 1-6, 0-1 Kerber (*next server)

No sign of a momentum shift just yet, as Kerber continues where she left off with a comfortable hold to 15. The serve is normally such a weakness for Kerber, but she's been very solid with it so far today. 

9:11AM

Sharapova 1-6 Kerber* (*next server) - Game and first set Kerber

This is just so so good from Kerber. After drawing a couple of Sharapova errors, the 2016 champion fizzes a forehand pass flying past her opponent to move up 0-40. A sprawling Sharapova can then only weakly net a forehand. Kerber has broken to love. 

She's also claimed an utterly dominant first set in 29 minutes. Statement stuff from Kerber. 

9:07AM

Sharapova* 1-5 Kerber (*next server)

Sharapova has not played badly so far, and she's trying to be as aggressive as possible. A couple of booming forehands take the Russian to 15-30, but Kerber simply grits her teeth and reels off the next three points - the final two secured with brilliant winners off either wing - to complete the hold to 30. 

Sharapova will serve to stay in the first set having lost the last three games. 

9:03AM

Sharapova 1-4 Kerber* (*next server) - Kerber breaks

Kerber is absolutely red-lining here. She is middling the ball with pretty much every shot, and races to 0-40 after absolutely pummelling her opponent in three consecutive baseline rallies. Sharapova saves the first one but then pushes a backhand long on the second. Kerber secures the double break. 

Incidentally Sharapova is doing that thing of taking an interminable amount of time between first and second serves. She's often taking more than the allotted 20 seconds between points. Surely the umpire has to step in? 

8:59AM

Sharapova* 1-3 Kerber (*next server)

Sharapova is really going after the suspect Kerber serve, but the German's defence is keeping her opponent at bay. Kerber holds to 15 here despite being on the back foot in most of the rallies, including the final point in which she brilliant chases down a drop shot and flicks away a backhand winner. Kerber lets out a roar of celebration. Both players are seriously pumped up for this. 

Credit: AP

8:54AM

Sharapova 1-2 Kerber* (*next server) - Sharapova saves a break point and holds

Kerber's level is so high here that her opponent is having to play exceptionally to win points. Sharapova does so with a couple of forehand winners to move up 40-30, but she's forced into going for too much on the next point and miscues a forehand long for deuce. A punishing, deep return from Kerber then forces Sharapova into netting a forehand, and it's another break point. Kerber can't believe her bad luck, as a Sharapova forehand clips the top of the tape and dies on the German's side of the court. Back to deuce. Sharapova then reels off the next two points - thanks to some heavy forehand hitting - and she grinds out the hold. 

Small margins there - Kerber was inches away from the double break. 

8:46AM

Sharapova* 0-2 Kerber (*next server)

Clean as a whistle hitting from Kerber, who races to 40-0 with a clinical backhand volley winner. Cold and calculating so far from Kerber, and she holds to 15 when Sharapova nets a backhand return. 

8:43AM

Sharapova 0-1 Kerber* (*next server) - Kerber breaks

Kerber starting with real purpose. She bosses the first three points to race to a 0-40 lead, and three break points. Sharapova saves the first one, but can then only spray a forehand long on the second. Kerber looks seriously dialled in, and purposefully strides towards the chair at the end of the game. 

8:39AM

Ready? Play

Sharapova serving first. 

8:34AM

Players are out

And at last, here they are. The two remaining grand slam champions in the women's draw take to the Rod Laver Arena. Following the knock-up, we will be under way. 

8:20AM

Nearly there

The scene ahead of the match. Incidentally I've changed my prediction from Kerber in three sets to Kerber in two tight sets.  Not really sure why but there you go. 

7:55AM

Delayed start

There will be "a little" delay to the start of the Sharapova vs Kerber match - that's all the information we're getting. Hopefully they'll be on at around 8.15. 

7:43AM

The main event

The day session has just finished on Rod Laver Arena, with rising star Hyeon Chung upsetting the fourth seed Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. Shocker for Zverev, that. 

Kerber v Sharapova is scheduled for 8am, but it may be slightly delayed given the late finish of the Laver day session. I'll keep you posted. 

7:05AM

Preamble

Morning everyone, 

Welcome to our first Australian Open live blog of the day, as two former champions Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova go head to head. It's the first time that's happened at this year's tournament, and it could be the last if the men's "Big Three" fail to fire. It will definitely be the only time it happens on the women's side, since these two are the only grand slam, let alone Australian Open, champions left in the draw. 

As well as both having a rich pedigree, this match also offers a fascinating clash of personalities. Kerber, the 2016 champion, is so unassuming and wary of the limelight that she never seemed less happy than when ranked No 1. The 2008 champion Sharapova, by contrast, is a multi-millionaire global brand and would give anything to be back at the summit of women's tennis. 

And despite both being 30 years old, the pair have taken hugely divergent paths to this point, with the trajectory of their careers going in almost exact opposite directions over the last couple of years. 

This time two years ago, Kerber had never reached a grand slam final and was viewed as something of a nearly woman. Sharapova by contrast was a five-time major winner, and a superstar that transcended the sport. 

Maria Sharapova in action against Anastasija Sevastova on Thursday Credit: Getty Images

By the end of the year, Kerber was the world No 1 and a two-time grand slam champion. Sharapova was serving a 15-month doping ban. 

The balance was slightly redressed in 2017, as Kerber struggled for form and endured a horrible spell as the world No 1, while Sharapova returned from her suspension and ended the year just outside the world's top 50.

Now here they are, with little to separate them. Kerber is ranked No 16 and seemingly liberated by the reduced expectations around her; Sharapova is back up to No 48, and was very impressive in taking out the 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets on Thursday. 

There has tended to be very little to choose between the players when they've met, with Sharapova winning four of their encounters, and Kerber three. The last three have all gone the distance, and I expect the same to happen again today. If I had to pick a winner, I'd say Kerber in three sets.