Maria Sharapova marked her first appearance on Court Philippe Chatrier in three years with a 6-2, 6-1 rout of Karolina Pliskova to set-up a potential French Open last-16 duel with nemesis Serena Williams on Saturday, while 10-time champion Rafael Nadal defeated childhood friend Richard Gasquet for the 16th time.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, the winner in Paris in 2012 and 2014, hadn’t played on Roland Garros’ showpiece arena since a quarter-final exit in 2015.
The 31-year-old served a doping suspension in 2016 and was refused a wildcard in 2017.
However, she made up for lost time by firing 18 winners past an under-cooked Pliskova, the sixth seed, in just under an hour.
She will next face either 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams or German 11th seed Julia Goerges.
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.
Williams, the champion in 2002, 2013 and 2015 and playing her first Slam since giving birth to her daughter in September, last played a major at the Australian Open in 2017 while two months pregnant.
She has dominated the headlines in Paris as much for her play -- she came back from a set and break down to beat Ashleigh Barty in the second round -- as for her striking all-black catsuit.
The 36-year-old Williams, now ranked at 451 in the world, boasts a 2-0 career lead over Georges.
It may not be easy on the eye with Williams’s renowned power-hitting up against the 29-year-old German who leads the aces count on the WTA Tour in 2018 with 212.
Nadal continued his bid for an 11th French Open title by brushing aside Gasquet to claim a 16th consecutive win over his childhood friend.
The world number one’s record at Roland Garros now stands at 82 wins and just two losses.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion eased to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory on Chatrier.
The 31-year-old also took his run of consecutive completed sets at the French Open to 34, just seven shy of the record held by Bjorn Borg between 1979 and 1981.
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