PARIS, France - Two-time champion Maria Sharapova made a statement in a big way at the French Open on Saturday, upsetting No.6 seed Karolina Pliskova in the third round, 6-2, 6-1.
The five-time major champion and former World No.1 was emphatic over the course of 59 minutes in her return to Court Philippe Chatrier, where she had previously raised the trophy in 2012 and 2014.
The Russian struck 18 winners to Pliskova's five, and broke the Czech's famed serve a total of five times in the match - despite Pliskova landing 70% of her first serves overall.
"I was solid. I played smart. I think I did the right things, I was aggressive on the break points, I went for it. I took the match rather than her giving it to me," Sharapova told reporters after the win.
"I thought I did a really good job of being aggressive on the return, giving her different looks on the return. the return was a big part of getting in the point, and not giving her too many free points and giving her confidence from the baseline after that."
Despite the one-sided result, it was Pliskova who started the quicker of the two in the match, as she opened up a 0-40 lead in the first game and broke Sharapova with a backhand pass down the line.
That would be the lone game that the former World No.1 would win in the next four, however, as she twice surrendered serve in both of her first service games in the opener.
The Russian broke once more in the final game of the set, converting on her third opportunity after building a 0-40 lead, wrapping up the edge in under 30 minutes of play.
"I think I improved quite a lot in this match from my first two rounds. I had to. I didn't really have a choice against a player like her," Sharapova said.
"I guess these are the types of occasions where you want to play really good, solid tennis against a top-10 player that's been playing extremely well. When you're able to deliver that on a Grand Slam stage, I think it makes it extra special."
The second set was more of the same from Sharapova, as she held from deuce in the first game and hardly looked back. The Russian never faced a break point on her serve and cruised through the last five games of the match to book her spot in the fourth round in Paris for the first time in three years.
"I think when you're progressing throughout a Grand Slam, you come across different challenges within a tournament like this," she added.
"I think that Roland Garros presents maybe more challenges than others with the weather, with the schedule. You just have to come forward and face it."
A clash between former French Open champions could be on the cards for Sharapova in the round of 16, as she's slated to face the winner of the match betwen three-time champion Serena Williams and No.11 seed Julia Goerges.
"I think any time you play against Serena you know what you're up against. You know the challenge that is upon you," the Russian added.
"Despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best player. I will look forward to doing that if she wins this one."