Maria Sharapova set up a mouth-watering French Open fourth-round encounter with Serena Williams after the pair eased through their third-round matches on Saturday.
Sharapova, the winner in Paris in 2012 and 2014, missed last year’s edition after being denied a wild card following her return to the game from a doping exile, but had little trouble against sixth-seed Karolina Pliskova.
The match was predicted to be a tight affair but victory was never in doubt on Roland Garros’ main show court Philippe-Chatrier as the Russian won 6-2 6-1 in just 59 minutes.
Sharapova broke the Czech three times and despite dropping serve once, took control of proceedings – firing eight winners compared to only two from Pliskova’s racket.
The second set only further underlined why the 31-year-old is deemed a strong contender for the title as she continued her dominance of Pliskova’s serve and the baseline exchanges to reach the last 16 of the tournament where she was later joined by Williams.
The former world No 1 and 23-time Grand Slam singles champion was in supreme form in beating German 11th-seed Julia Goerges 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 15 minutes
The 36-year-old American, three times a winner in Paris, has lost just two of their 21 meetings and their last-16 encounter on Monday will be among the most eagerly-anticipated of the whole tournament.
The two players have had their public falling-outs over the years and Sharapova has not beaten her old foe in 14 years, including a defeat in the Paris final of 2013 and another in the quarter-final of the 2016 Australian Open, which was Sharapova’s last match before a 15-month doping ban.
“It’s been a while, and I think a lot has happened in our lives for the both of us in very different ways,” said Sharapova.
“I have spoken about that chapter for a long time now, and to be able to put myself back in these positions and to not shy away from these moments, to come out on centre court and want the challenge of moving forward and to be able to
face Serena, I think that speaks for itself.”
Two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova saw her dreams of victory in Paris ended by a fantastic display by Anett Kontaveit.
The Estonian 22-year-old defeated her more experienced counterpart 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) after Kvitova had threatened a comeback after breaking Kontaveit twice when she served for the match.
Kontaveit will next meet US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who has enjoyed a resurgence in form, after the American passed a stern test with a 4-6 6-1 8-6 victory against Camila Giorgi.
Another former winner Garbine Muguruza also enjoyed an emphatic victory as the third seed, one of the pre-tournament favourites, thrashed Sam Stosur 6-0 6-2 in just over an hour.
The Spanish player will face Lesia Tsurenko after the Ukranian defeated 19th-seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2 6-4.
Simona Halep powered her way past the challenge of Andrea Petkovic, after edging a tight first set on the way to a 7-5 6-0 win against the former semi-finalist at Roland Garros.
Elise Mertens, who defeated Heather Watson in the second round, saw off Australia’s Daria Gavrilova 6-3 6-1 to reach the fourth-round stage for the first time.
Seventh-seed Caroline Garcia mixed 18 winners and 13 unforced errors in a one-sided 6-1 6-3 victory against Irina-Camelia Begu to maintain hopes of a first home champion since Mary Pierce in 2000.