PARIS – Maria Sharapova set up a potential last-16 clash with Serena Williams by crushing sixth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2 6-1 in the French Open third round on Saturday.
The five-time Grand Slam champion produced one of her best performances since returning from a doping ban, cruising to a totally one-sided win in her first match on Court Philippe Chatrier for three years.
“I knew I had to play well against a tough opponent. I managed to stay aggressive and I played smart as well,” said Sharapova, who delighted a half-full Chatrier by thanking them for their support in French.
The Russian, winner in Paris in 2012 and 2014, is seeded at a major for the first time since testing positive for meldonium two years ago.
A fired-up Sharapova powered 18 winners past her fellow former world number one Pliskova, with the Czech never threatening any resistance in a match which lasted just 59 minutes.
She will next face either 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams or German 11th seed Julia Goerges, who play later on Saturday, in the fourth round.
Sharapova and Serena have met 21 times, with the American leading the head-to-head record 19-2 after 18 consecutive wins dating back to 2004.
Sharapova had struggled on serve in her opening wins over Richel Hogenkamp and Donna Vekic, and she was broken in the very first game of the match.
But the Russian, now ranked 30 in the world, utterly dominated the rest of the match against her passive opponent.
She showed guile as well as power too, bringing up match point with a perfect backhand drop shot, perhaps sending a warning to Serena in the process.