Serena Williams to face Maria Sharapova at French Open

Updated 5:59 AM EDT, Mon June 4, 2018
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Story highlights

Williams defeats 11th seed Julia Goerges 6-3 6-4

Sharapova thumped Karolina Pliskova 6-2 6-1

Williams slams Sharapova's book

Rafael Nadal wins 34th straight set at French Open

(CNN) —  

Serena Williams felt like a ‘superhero’ as she wore a black catsuit when making her grand slam return Tuesday after 16 months away.

The Austrian blew the Monte Carlo finalist away in the first two sets, lost the third, but came through 6-2 6-0 5-7 6-4 to land in a third consecutive Roland Garros quarterfinal.

But when the world-famous duo landed in the same quarter of the draw at this year’s French Open, there was no guarantee they would clash in the fourth round.

Williams was playing her first grand slam in 16 months and only her third tournament of 2018 after giving birth to daughter Olympia in September, while Sharapova dealt with an arm injury this year and still sought top form after returning from a drug suspension in April 2017.

Yet the pair will face off indeed for the 22nd time after both won Saturday at Roland Garros.

“We are both on a comeback for two totally different reasons, and she’s been on her journey for over a year and I just started mine a couple months ago,” said Williams. “So it’s just something new and different.”

Struggling somewhat in the opening two rounds, both put in their best performances of the fortnight on a sunny, warm day in Paris that was a complete contrast to Friday’s wet, heavy conditions.

On paper, anyway, they were upset victories.

Williams – her ranking down to 451st due to a lack of matches since winning the 2017 Australian Open in the early stages of pregnancy – defeated 11th-seed Julia Goerges 6-3 6-4 Saturday evening.

The 23-time grand slam champ faced a mere one break point and tallied 85% of her first-serve points.

“I feel like every match I play I’m getting better and I’m playing tougher opponents and I’m hanging in there, and I feel like it’s going to hopefully keep going,” said Williams.

Sharapova thumped sixth-seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2 6-1 in the afternoon, winning nearly 60% of her return points versus last year’s women’s ace leader and Roland Garros semifinalist.

Monday, though, comes the hard part for 28th-seed Sharapova, no doubt the toughest challenge of her career – trying to beat Williams.

Serena Williams was all smiles after her French Open win Saturday.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Serena Williams was all smiles after her French Open win Saturday.

Lopsided record

Sharapova trails the series 19-2 and last overcame the American in 2004.

Sixteen straight sets have gone against her, including in the quarterfinals at the 2016 Australian Open, Sharapova’s last match prior to serving the ban for taking meldonium.

“I think any time you play against Serena you know what you’re up against,” the five-time grand slam winner told reporters. “You know the challenge that is upon you.

“Despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best player.”

Maria Sharapova crushed Karolina Pliskova at the French Open.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Maria Sharapova crushed Karolina Pliskova at the French Open.

They wouldn’t be considered pals but Sharapova admitted to being “inspired” by her on-court tormentor. Their path to stardom from humble beginnings is also inspiring, according to Sharapova.

Born in Siberia, Russia, Sharapova moved to the US aged six to chase her tennis dream. Williams and older sister Venus grew up in Compton in the 1980s at a time when gang warfare was not uncommon in the Los Angeles suburb.