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Serena cruises into quarterfinals on Australian Open Day 7

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24: Serena Williams of the United States plays a backhand in her fourth round match against Margarita Gaspatryan of Russia during day seven of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
January 24, 2016 09:55 AM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Serena Williams cruised into the second week of the Australian Open on Sunday to set up a quarterfinal showdown with a familiar foe.

The defending champion brushed past Russia's Margarita Gasparyan, 6-2, 6-1, in the fourth round in Rod Laver Arena to punch her ticket to the final eight, where she'll face 2008 winner Maria Sharapova.

Williams (pictured above) dropped her first service game against 21-year-old Gasparyan, but it was all one-way traffic from there as she won 12 of the following 14 games, breaking the world No. 58 five times in wrapping up a 55-minute victory.

Searching for her 22nd Grand Slam women's singles title, which would tie Steffi Graf's Open era-record, the 34-year-old Williams won 75 percent of points on her first serve and hit 19 winners to Gasparyan's nine.

The victory sets the stage for a 21st meeting between the two former world No. 1 players, who last met this early at a major five and a half years ago at Wimbledon in 2010.

Overall, Williams owns a commanding 18-2 head-to-head record over 28-year-old Sharapova, including victories in their past 17 contests. Tuesday's meeting will be their fourth Down Under, with Williams winning the other three matches, including the 2007 and 2015 finals. Sharapova's last win over Williams came at the 2004 Tour Championships in Los Angeles, five months after she upset Williams in the Wimbledon final.

In their previous 13 matches, 10 of which have been in semifinals or later, Williams has dropped just one set. Victories have included a 6-0, 6-1 stomping in the gold medal match at the London Olympics in 2012 as well as finals victories at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2012, Miami and Madrid in 2013 and the 2013 French Open.

Williams, in search of her seventh championship in Melbourne, has now won 37 of her past 38 Grand Slam matches, but Sharapova will look to rely on an improved serve – she hit a career-high 21 aces in her fourth-round win over Belinda Bencic – to solve the Williams riddle.

Elsewhere on Sunday, No. 9 seeds Jack Sock of the U.S. and Vasek Pospisil of Canada advanced to the quarterfinals of the men's doubles competition with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Groth, and 12th-seeded Coco Vandeweghe and Anna Lena Groenefeld of Germany beat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Barbora Strycova, 7-6(5), 6-3, in their round-of-16 encounter.

Vandeweghe was also successful in mixed doubles action, advancing to the second round with partner Horia Tecau of Romania over No. 6 seeds Lucie Hradecka and Marcin Matakowski, 10-8 in the third-set match tiebreak.

Day 8 sees No. 15 seed Madison Keys face Zhang Shuai of China and No. 10 seed John Isner against eighth-ranked David Ferrer for spots in the quarterfinals.

Doubles action also resumes, with No. 3 seeds Bob and Mike Bryan facing Rajeev Ram of the U.S. and Raven Klaasen of South Africa in the third round of the men's competition, and Vania King and Russia's Alla Kudryavtseva against No. 5 seeds Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina in the women's doubles.

Mixed doubles also continues with second-round play, with Bob Bryan and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the No. 2 seeds, playing Australian duo Sam Stosur and John Peers.