French Open: Maria Sharapova stuns Karolina Pliskova in 59 minutes

It was a near-flawless display by 28th seed Maria Sharapova as she ousted sixth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 6-1 in the third round of the 2018 French Open.

French Open: Maria Sharapova stuns Karolina Pliskova in 59 minutes
Maria Sharapova celebrates her impressive victory | Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images Europe
Maria Sharapova
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Karolina Pliskova

Many underplayed her chances but 28th seed Maria Sharapova stunned the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd with a terrific and outstanding 6-2, 6-1 rout over world number six Karolina Pliskova in their third-round encounter at the 2018 French Open. The Czech came into the match as the slight favourite but performed poorly as she was out-of-sorts throughout the majority of the match, allowing the Russian to take advantage and storm towards the one-sided thrashing after a quick 59 minutes, her best performance of the year thus far.

A win for the five-time Major champion meant that a blockbuster and highly-anticipated fourth-round clash between Sharapova and Serena Williams could still occur, depending on the American’s result against Julia Goerges later on in the day. This is Sharapova’s 13th appearance in the second week here in Paris, making this her best-performing Major of her career despite her early struggles.

Maria Sharapova's groundstrokes were on fire today | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
Maria Sharapova's groundstrokes were on fire today | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe

Sharapova strolls through the terrific opening set

Sharapova had yet another slow start on her serve as she made a poor decision to start the match serving. Pliskova had a blistering start and was firing powerful returns while challenging the Russian’s authority at the baseline, forcing Sharapova to commit errors and fall into a 0-40 hole. A winner at the net ultimately helped the world number six to clinch the confidence-boosting break in the opening game.

Unexpectedly, the five-time Grand Slam champion was able to produce an immediate reply, grabbing the break back and getting onto the scoreboard. Sharapova’s forehands were firing on all cylinders but Pliskova certainly did not seem like herself out on the court, with her serves not being as effective as it usually were.

Karolina Pliskova's first-serve percentage was decent but she was not able to back it up | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
Karolina Pliskova's first-serve percentage was decent but she was not able to back it up | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe

The 28th seed stormed out to a commanding 4-1 lead within a blink of an eye although Pliskova was able to stop the rout and gather up her confidence for a routine service hold, letting out a huge roar after earning the relieving hold. Her precise service placement allowed her to remain in contention, but Sharapova was simply untouchable on serve after the disappointing start.

Serving to stay in the set at 2-5 down, another slew of unforced errors came off Pliskova’s racquet as she eventually ended the first set with a total of seven unforced errors alongside just two winners, with Sharapova winning it 6-2 having been the more proactive player on the court today.

Maria Sharapova stormed to take the opening set 6-2 after just 29 minutes of play | Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images Europe
Maria Sharapova stormed to take the opening set 6-2 after just 29 minutes of play | Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images Europe

Sharapova seals the stunning win

It was a tricky start to the second set for Sharapova as she almost allowed her inconsistency to overwhelm her. Nonetheless, the Russian’s accuracy on her serves saved her from the brink, grabbing the excellent service hold to continue holding onto her momentum. This time, Pliskova was able to keep the scores close as she put in a solid service hold and attempted to produce an inspired comeback.

However, Sharapova was just at another level as she marched towards another commanding break, opening a formidable lead which all but sealed her win. Everything was pointing towards the victory for the Russian and even though Pliskova put in some fight in the sixth game to lessen the deficit, Sharapova was unstoppable and came up with several impressive winners on both her forehand and backhand wing to jump out to a 5-1 lead.

Maria Sharapova celebrates winning a point during the one-sided affair | Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images Europe
Maria Sharapova celebrates winning a point during the one-sided affair | Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images Europe

For the first time in Paris, Sharapova was able to successfully serve out the set, and she fired down a couple of powerful serves as Pliskova sent yet another return wide on match point, gifting the stunning win to the Russian after just 59 minutes of play.

Match Statistics: Sharapova the more proactive player on the court

Sharapova had some stunning serving statistics today; having served at 73 percent and losing just nine points behind her powerful first serves. Whereas, Pliskova’s statistics for the day was stunning as well — just for the wrong reasons. The Czech’s serve was her most famous weapon but today she won just 45 percent of points behind her first serves and managed to cling onto five second serve points, getting broken on five different occasions in the 59-minute encounter.

Sharapova and Pliskova meet at the net after the encounter | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
Sharapova and Pliskova meet at the net after the encounter | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe

Pliskova hit just five winners, alongside a bulk of 16 unforced errors while Sharapova had a clean day on the statistical board, firing 18 winners despite it coming with a heavy price of 19 errors. Nonetheless, Sharapova was the clear aggressor in the match as she was often taking the initiative and looking to clean the lines.