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Maria Sharapova cruises past Karolina Pliskova, into fourth round at French Open


Maria Sharapova easily handled the big serve of No. 6-seeded Karolina Pliskova and overwhelmed her 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday to move closer to a possible French Open showdown against Serena Williams.

Sharapova has won two of her five Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros and is now into the fourth round for the 12th time in 14 appearances at the clay-court major.

The 31-year-old Russian, who is seeded 28th after missing the French Open the last two years, will next play the winner of the third-rounder between 23-time major champion Williams and 11th-seeded Julia Goerges. Williams has won 19 of 21 head-to-head matchups against Sharapova, including the last 18 in a row.

Against Pliskova at Court Philippe Chatrier, Sharapova held an 18-5 edge in winners and broke the 2016 U.S. Open runner-up in five of her seven service games. Pliskova has led the WTA in aces the past three seasons — and is No. 2 in that category this year — but managed only one Saturday.

The match lasted just 59 minutes.

“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.

Sloane Stephens is also through to the fourth round ofor a fifth time in her seven visits to Roland Garros.

The 10th-seeded American beat Camila Giorgi of Italy 4-6, 6-1, 8-6.

Stephens, the U.S. Open champion in 2017, plays Anett Kontaveit in the fourth round.

The 25th-seeded Estonian advanced by beating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4).

Stephens failed to reach round four at Roland Garros in 2011, when she lost in the first round at her first French Open, and in 2016, when she lost in the third round.

Earlier, unseeded Karen Khachanov of Russia has reached the round of 16 for the second consecutive year, eliminating 15th-seeded Lucas Pouille of France 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 in the resumption of a suspended match.

They were tied 1-1 in the third set when play was stopped because of rain the night before.

The 38th-ranked Khachanov has made it to the fourth round both times he played at Roland Garros, his best showing at any Grand Slam tournament.

He will try to reach a major quarterfinal for the first time, facing No. 2-seeded Alexander Zverev next.

Third-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain has crushed Samantha Stosur 6-0, 6-2 to book a spot in the women’s fourth round.

The 2016 champion at Roland Garros lost her serve just once to the Australian, who won the 2011 US Open and made the semifinals in Roland Garros in 2016, 2012 and 2009.

Muguruza faced no break points in winning the first set in 26 minutes.

Facing three break points in the fourth game of the second set, she served a double fault, allowing Stosur to level at 2-2. But she then rattled off the next four games for the match.

Muguruza faces 39th-ranked Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the fourth round.

Fabio Fognini is through to the fourth round, giving Italy two players among the last 16 men for the first time since 1976.

Fognini, sporting an eye-catching red T-shirt with black thunderbolts on the front and back, beat 16th-seeded Briton Kyle Edmund 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The 18th-seeded Fognini hadn’t reached the fourth round since 2011, when he lost in the quarterfinals.

The other Italian in the fourth round is Marco Cecchinato.