Two-time French Open champion Maria Sharapova issues reminder at Roland Garros
Maria Sharapova may be all smiles after a game, but the two-time French Open champion is all grit during the game. AP

PARIS — The topic was the location of Maria Sharapova's upcoming third-round match at the French Open, and a reporter noted it likely will be at one of the tournament's main arenas, given that it involves 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova.

"Well," came the rejoinder, "there is also Sharapova."

This was delivered with Sharapova's chin resting on her right hand and was followed by a bit of a staredown, as if to say: Let's not forget who you're talking to here. The 31-year-old Russian has, after all, been ranked No. 1. She does, after all, own five major titles. And that total does, after all, include a pair from Roland Garros.

She is playing in the clay-court Grand Slam tournament for the first time since 2015, though, and she advanced Wednesday by beating 50th-ranked Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-5, 6-4 to improve to 13-0 in the second round.

"I don't think there is ever, like, a perfect way to go into a match. I think you always have to feel that you're improving and there are things that you're working on, because that will always make you better," the 28th-seeded Sharapova said. "There are a lot of things I feel I could have done better (in) the last two matches and I hope I will."

She missed the 2016 French Open while serving a doping suspension, then was denied a wild-card entry by the French tennis federation last year, when her ranking was too low to earn automatic entry.

When on-target, her strokes are among the best in the game. So is her grit.

Those could both be tested Saturday against Pliskova, who is seeded No. 6 and was a semifinalist in Paris last year.

Her top skill is her serve, which Sharapova knows will provide a test.

"I don't expect extremely long rallies against an opponent like that. But sometimes (that's) not what it takes to win a match, and I think you have to kind of take care of your service games, and I have to serve better than I have been," Sharapova said. "And take care of the return. But that side of the game, I feel, has improved in the last few months."

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Pliskova is on pace to lead the WTA in aces for the fourth consecutive season.

And she wasn't at all shy about sizing things up against Sharapova, saying: "I believe I have (a) better serve than she (does), so I think that can be the deciding key."

Then there was this remark: "She can do a lot of mistakes ... a lot of free points from double-faults."

After her 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over 2015 French Open runner-up Lucie Safarova on Wednesday, Pliskova acknowledged she has been thinking about taking on Sharapova since the draw was done a week ago.

"For me, it was the goal to play her in the third round," Pliskova said, adding a few moments later: "I believe I have a good chance to win."

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