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Sharapova downs Venus for Rome semifinals

Defending champion Maria Sharapova is through to the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, beating wildcard Venus Williams 6-4 6-3 in the final eight. After a closely-fought first set, the Russian second seed broke Venus' serve for a 5-4 lead, and in the following game saved two break points before taking the set. The second set Sharapova started by establishing a 2-0 lead, and even though Venus leveled at 2-all, the American didn't give much more resistance. Besides confidently holding one more service game, the rest of the set was Sharapova's and Venus even ended the match with a double fault. Sharapova's semifinal opponent will be Petra Kvitova or Angelique Kerber.

Earlier in the quarterfinals, Serena Williams was on court for just 28 minutes, as Flavia Pennetta retired with a right wrist injury while trailing 4-0. Williams' claycourt winning streak has mounted to 17 matches, and the American, who has this spring won on the green clay of Charleston and the blue clay of Madrid, confidently stated: "I've played on ice and on water. I can play on any surface."

Serena's opponent in the semifinals will be French Open champion Li Na of China, who stormed to a 6-1 4-0 lead against Dominika Cibulkova, before the Slovak recovered to take the second set to a tiebreak. Still, Li won 6-1 7-6 (4) and is now looking for her second victory over Serena in their seventh meeting. (photo courtesy of Francesca Moscatelli)

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