PARIS - Two-time champion Maria Sharapova edged closer to a possible French Open last-16 duel with old rival Serena Williams on Thursday as she eased into the third round.
Sharapova, the 2012 and 2014 champion in Paris, needed five match points to see off Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-4 in a tie which featured 10 breaks of serve.
Former world number one Sharapova, seeded 28 this year, will face Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova for a place in the fourth round.
"She's playing great," Sharapova told Eurosport Russia of Pliskova, a player she defeated in their only previous meeting in the 2015 Fed Cup final.
"She won a big title in Stuttgart, so I have to be ready to this match and I'll be ready."
Serena is a possible opponent but the three-time champion still has her second round to play Thursday against Australia's Ashleigh Barty.
Sharapova is playing Roland Garros for the first time since 2015.
The 31-year-old was serving a doping ban in 2015 and was refused a wildcard by Roland Garros organisers last year.
Williams is a three-time champion in Paris and playing her first Slam since winning the 2017 Australian Open.
All eyes will again be on her striking black catsuit which dominated headlines after her first round win over Kristyna Pliskova and has caused some to question whether or not it's legal.
Manufacturers Nike insisted Thursday that the suit, which Williams claims helps prevent the return of blood clots which put her life in danger after giving birth to her daughter in September, will get another airing on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Williams, 36, who is ranked at 451 in the world after her lengthy absence, defeated Barty in their only previous meeting, needing less than an hour to secure a straight sets win at the 2014 Australian Open.