Sharapova grinds out a win

Former world No. 1 has to dig deep to book her place in the third round

Two-time Roland Garros champion Maria Sharapova was among the familiar faces who progressed to the third round of the French Open yesterday, along with top seed Simona Halep and third seed Garbine Muguruza.

Sharapova booked her spot in the last 16 after seeing off Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-4.

Seeded 28 this year, the former world No. 1 will face Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova for a place in the fourth round.

Yesterday, Sharapova had to dig deep to beat Vekic.

Back at Roland Garros after a two-year absence, the 31-year-old Russian was erratic throughout, but her iron willpower helped see her through.

Sharapova, who missed the 2016 tournament because of a doping ban and was denied an invitation last year on her return from suspension, will need to be more consistent if she is to beat Pliskova, a French Open semi-finalist last year.

If she overcomes Pliskova, she could meet old rival Serena Williams in the last 16, if the American beats Australia's Ashleigh Barty this morning (Singapore time).

She's young and she's talented. These matches are very difficult. Garbine Muguruza on her opponent French wildcard Fiona Ferro

Sharapova is also on course to meet Muguruza in the quarter-finals if both win their respective matches before that.

Muguruza had ensured her place in the third round by beating French wildcard Fiona Ferro 6-4, 6-3 yesterday.

The Spaniard sealed the match with a whipped cross-court forehand, though, for much of the match, the third seed struggled to find her rhythm and range on the forehand.

Muguruza, who won at Roland Garros in 2016 and heads to Wimbledon this year as defending champion, had not played the 21-year-old Ferro before yesterday's encounter.

"She's young and she's talented," Muguruza said in a post-match interview on court Suzanne Lenglen.

"These matches are very difficult."

Muguruza arrived in Paris as one of five women with a chance of claiming the world No. 1 spot from Halep, who needs to reach at least the semi-finals to retain her top position.

Playing in a second straight day, Halep swept past Taylor Townsend of the United States 6-3, 6-1 yesterday.

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