Sharapova edges closer to Serena clash at French Open

Power-packed: Maria Sharapova plays a backhand return to Croatia's Donna Vekic

Two-time champion Maria Sharapova edged closer to a possible French Open last-16 duel with Serena Williams by seeing off Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-4 in the second round on Thursday.

Former world number one Sharapova, seeded 28 this year, will face Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova for a place in the fourth round.

Old rival Serena could be a possible opponent but the three-time champion still has her second round to play Thursday against Australia's Ashleigh Barty.

Sharapova, the champion in Paris in 2012 and 2014, is playing Roland Garros for the first time since 2015.

The 31-year-old was serving a doping ban in 2015 and was refused a wildcard by Roland Garros organisers last year.

Power-packed: Maria Sharapova plays a backhand return to Croatia's Donna Vekic