2018 French Open: Serena, Shar

Russia’s Maria Sharapova hits a return to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko during their quarter final match at Rome’s WTA Tennis Open tournament at the Foro Italico, on May 18, 2018 in Rome.
/ AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE

2018 French Open: Serena, Sharapova showdown looms

Well, this could be rather interesting.

2018 French Open: Serena, Shar

Russia’s Maria Sharapova hits a return to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko during their quarter final match at Rome’s WTA Tennis Open tournament at the Foro Italico, on May 18, 2018 in Rome.
/ AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE

Two-time champion Maria Sharapova edged closer to a possible French Open last-16 duel with old rival Serena Williams on Thursday as top seed Simona Halep and 2016 winner Garbine Muguruza breezed 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 at 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.

Serena Williams. Picture: Screenshot / Twitter

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.

Halep reached the third round with a comfortable 6-3, 6-1 win over Taylor Townsend of the United States.

Halep, twice a runner-up in Paris, will face Germany’s Andrea Petkovic for a place in the last 16.

Petkovic was a semi-finalist in 2014 and was once ranked in the top 10 but has slipped to 107 after an injury-blighted few seasons.

Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, was too strong for France’s number 257 Fiona Ferro 6-4, 6-3.

She was unknown to me. It’s always tricky when you face a French, a young, talented player,” said Wimbledon champion Muguruza.

Read: French Open 2018: There’s a medical reason behind Serena Williams’ ‘Wakanda” catsuit