By Sky Sports Tennis
Last Updated: 29/05/18 6:01pm
Serena Williams beat Czech Kristyna Pliskova to advance in Paris
Serena Williams made a winning return to a Grand Slam at the French Open, while Maria Sharapova was pushed to three sets.
The 36-year-old beat Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to register her first victory at the majors since her 2017 Australian Open triumph, when she won it while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia, who was born in September.
There was a little rust to shake off on her return but all the same Serena was too strong, and too good, for her world 70-ranked opponent to set up a meeting with Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the next round.
“Two years is a really long time but I have trained hard on clay and feel good,” she said courtside afterwards.
“I’m happy to have won a match here and I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
Sharapova lost six games in a row and then won the next six as she got her return to Paris off to a successful start.
The Russian appeared to be cruising at 6-1 3-1 ahead but Holland’s Richel Hogenkamp suddenly had her on the ropes, taking the second set and racing 3-0 ahead in the decider.
But Sharapova rediscovered her game in the nick of time to reel off half-a-dozen games for a 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory.
It was an ultimately sweet moment for the two-time Paris champion.
This time last year Sharapova had recently returned from a 15-month doping ban, but had not built her ranking high enough to qualify and was not offered a wild card.
But 12 months later Sharapova is back in the world’s top 30, seeded 28 at Roland Garros and a potential challenger for a third title.
“I think if there is any way to turn that match around, it’s that way,” she said. “It’s great to be in this draw and great to be back on a court that I have had great success at.”
Garbine Murguruza won the battle of the defending champions
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza got the better of Svetlana Kuznetsova in a first-round meeting of two former champions.
After a 90-minute rain interruption at 5-5 in the first set Muguruza, the 2016 winner, blew 2009 champion Kuznetsova away in the tie break and went on to win 7-6 (7-0) 6-2.