Sharapova makes Chatrier return, Nadal faces Gasquet
Maria Sharapova will return to the showpiece Court Philippe Chatrier for the first time in three years against fellow former world number one Karolina Pliskova at Roland Garros on Saturday, while Rafael Nadal defends his 15-0 record over Richard Gasquet.
Here are three matches to watch on day seven of the French Open: Two-time champion Sharapova will play her first match on the famous Philippe Chatrier court since 2015 when she faces sixth seed Pliskova for a place in the last 16.
“It’s been a few years since I have been back on the court; so if I do have a chance to play on it I will welcome it with open arms,” she said after her second-round win over Donna Vekic.
Czech Pliskova made the semi-finals here last year, and may fancy her chances against Sharapova, who had to fight hard to get past Richel Hogenkamp and Vekic in her first two matches.
Sharapova has only played Pliskova once before, winning in the 2015 Fed Cup final in straight sets, although the Czech Republic went on to lift the trophy.
A victory for the Russian would keep alive hopes of a mouthwatering 22nd career meeting with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the fourth round.
Nadal will continue his bid for an 11th French Open crown against old junior rival and home darling Richard Gasquet, whom he has beaten 15 times from as many meetings.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion and Frenchman Gasquet were both highly-regarded as youngsters, but Nadal has utterly dominated their rivalry and hasn’t even dropped a set to his fellow 31-year-old since 2008.
The match is a repeat of Nadal’s straight-sets victory at the same third-round stage the last time they met in Paris back in 2005.
“When I left the match, I was with my father at the time, I said, ‘he’s going to win and he might win a lot of Grand Slams behind that, because he was incredible’,” remembered Gasquet.
“I didn’t think he would win (Roland Garros) 10 times, but I knew he would win five or six.”
Williams continues her Grand Slam return with her toughest assignment so far against 11th-seeded German Julia Goerges on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
The three-time winner was facing an early exit in her first Slam since the 2017 Australian Open when she trailed Ashleigh Barty by a set and a break, but dragged herself back into form in trademark fashion to progress.
Goerges reached the last 16 at Roland Garros in 2015, but Serena should have plenty of added motivation knowing that victory could give her the chance to notch an incredible 19th consecutive win over long-time rival and five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova.
She has beaten Goerges both times they have faced off, including 6-1, 6-1 in the 2010 French Open second round.
“I think the name Williams carries a lot of weight at Grand Slams,” Goerges told SID, an AFP subsidiary.
“But still, you should separate from the name a bit, I want to play my game the normal way. I’m proud to have progressed this far.”