PARIS - So much has transpired in the nearly 21/2 years since Maria Sharapova of Russia and Justine Henin of Belgium last played each other.
Sharapova needed right-shoulder surgery and was off the tour for 10 months, then missed time with a right-elbow injury. Henin abruptly announced her retirement and stayed away for 20 months, then returned, happier off the court and, so far, almost as good on it.
The two former No. 1s, owners of a combined 10 Grand Slam titles, set up an attention-worthy showdown in the French Open's third round Saturday by wrapping up matter-of-fact victories on a busy Friday.
"Comes very early, of course, third round," Henin said. "But I feel ready for it."
Relentless rain Thursday created a backlog of matches, meaning that nearly every big name in tennis was swinging a racket somewhere around Roland Garros a day later. Both Williams sisters; Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal; Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt - all played and won.
The only upset of real significance came when defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova lost, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, to 30th-seeded Maria Kirilenko in a third-round match that lasted nearly 21/2 hours. Even that wasn't exactly shocking, considering that Kirilenko already had beaten her fellow Russian on clay in Rome this month and knocked Sharapova out of the Australian Open in January. Plus, Kuznetsova arrived in Paris with a losing record this year and barely eked through the second round by saving four match points.
"I have to move on. I have to grow and to improve," said Kuznetsova, who will fall out of the top 10 in the rankings for the first time in four years. "I didn't come here with my best game, but I gave it my all."
With so many other top players still around, some must start facing each other. Four-time French Open champion Nadal meets past Wimbledon and U.S. Open winner Hewitt on Saturday. That is scheduled to be followed in the main stadium by Sharapova vs. Henin.
On Friday, Henin eliminated 79th-ranked Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-3.
Like Henin's second-round match, Sharapova's was halted in the second set because of darkness Thursday night. Like Henin, Sharapova wasn't challenged much in a 6-3, 6-3 victory, hers coming against 71st-ranked Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.