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Tennis From The French Open • Sharapova Punishes Pliskova in Paris

Maria Sharapova of Russia plays Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic during their women’s third round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 02 June 2018. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERG



By Richard Pagliario


Ball marks slashing the clay canvas reinforced the Roland Garros lesson Maria Sharapova artfully dispensed.


Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.


Karolina Pliskova said she set her sights on getting another shot at Sharapova since the draw was issued.


Instead, Pliskova got a major beat-down.


In a battle of former world No. 1 players, Sharapova outclassed and overwhelmed the 2017 semifinalist, 6-2, 6-1, in a crushing conquest that spanned just 59 minutes.


Pliskova broke to open the match, but a ruthless Sharapova stormed through 12 of the final 14 games roaring into the French Open fourth round for the 12th time.


“It was a good match, I did the right things, I set up opportunities for me, I returned really well,” Sharapova told Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim afterward. “She’s one of the best servers in the game. I tried to take that away from her and I think I did a really good job of that.”


It was Sharapova’s 31st win in her last 34 matches in Paris with only Serena Williams, Lucie Safarova and Li Na defeating the powerful Russian in that span.


The victory sends Sharapova into a possible fourth-round showdown with Serena Williams though the 23-time Grand Slam champion must defeat 11th-seeded German Julia Goerges later today to make that match happen.


Denied a Roland Garros wild card last year, Sharapova played as if empowered by ruthless retribution today.


Before a buzzing crowd on Philippe Chatrier Court, Sharapova didn’t just pound Pliskova, she punished her. Sharapova unleashed 18 winners more than tripling Pliskova’s meager five winners.


Leading the WTA Tour in aces for the fourth straight season, Pliskova said she believed her serve would be the key stroke to the match.


“I believe I have (a) better serve than she (does), so I think that can be the deciding key,” Pliskova said after her second-round win, adding, “she can do a lot of mistakes … a lot of free points from double faults.”


The two-time Roland Garros champion ravaged the ace leader’s serve, converting five of 10 break points, winning 55 percent of points played on Pliskova’s first serve and 65 percent of her second serve points.


Essentially, Sharapova stared down one of the biggest weapons in the game and ripped it to shreds.


After dropping the opening game, the 30th-ranked Russian broke back. That response settled Sharapova, who charged out to a 4-1 lead.


On the third set point, a skittish Pliskova spit up her second double fault to end a sloppy set.


The 28th-seeded took a one-set lead after 28 minutes on the strength of her third break of the match.


The second set was all Sharapova.


Competing with more energy and urgency, the five-time Grand Slam champion beat the desire out of a listless Pliskova.


In a dominating performance, Sharapova had Pliskova on her heels when she pulled the string on an exquisite drop shot that left the statuesque Czech seemingly stuck in the mud as Sharapova broke again for 5-1.


Thumping a biting serve down the middle, Sharapova wrapped an exceptional performance in 59 minutes, raising her Roland Garros career record to 56-11.


If Williams defeats Goerges, she will square off against Sharapova in a rematch of the 2013 French Open final, which Serena won, 6-4, 6-4.


The 36-year-old Williams has won 18 straight meetings with Sharapova turning the five-time Grand Slam champion into her personal pinata in winning 19 of their 21 meetings. Sharapova has not beaten Williams since the 2004 WTA Tour Finals, but took a diplomatic approach to a rematch with the woman who has ravaged a one-time rivalry.


“Every match creates a new opportunity,” Sharapova said. “I didn’t feel like I played great tennis the first two rounds, but I got through.


“First of all for me personally, it’s great to be in this fourth round. I’ll take the challenge of whoever it is whether it’s Serena or Julia I look forward to getting out there.”

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