• Internazionali BNL d'Italia

Serena marches on, Sharapova beats Venus

ESPN staff
May 18, 2012
Serena Williams will meet Li Na in the semi-finals © PA Photos

Serena Williams was handed a quick passage into the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia as Flavia Pennetta was forced to retire.

Playing in front of her home fans, Pennetta was looking to put on a bold show but she was hampered by a hand injury. The Italian had trouble gripping the racket and after dropping her second service game of the match to trail 4-0, she offered her hand to Williams.

There were few mistakes from Pennetta, just one unforced error in the contest, but this was on account of her being seriously inhibited in her play.

Despite the backing of the crowd and attention from the doctor, she could not shake off the problem in her right hand and Williams was able to progress in just 28 minutes - for the loss of only 11 points.

With the French Open a little over a week away, injuries are a concern for officials with Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki also pulling out this week.

"It's never nice to go through like that but it is nice to have kind of a semi-day off," Williams said. "I've been playing every day for I don't know how many days so it definitely helps."

Williams will face French Open champion Li Na in the semi-finals after the Chinese No. 1 beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-1 7-5.

"Li's the defending French Open champion and a great all-court player so it's going to be a really good test for me," she added.

In the other half of the draw, world No. 2 Maria Sharapova took a step closer to the defence of her title with a 6-4 6-3 win over Venus Williams.

Sharapova grabbed a crucial break at 4-4 in the first set, serving out for the opener before grabbing an early break in the second. Williams broke back, but Sharapova immediately re-established her advantage as she held on to reach her fifth semi-final of the year.

Next up for Sharapova is Germany's Angelique Kerber who upset Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a topsy-turvy encounter.

Kvitova, who has been struggling with a stomach injury this week, blazed through the second set after losing the opener on a tiebreak, but was well beaten in the decider as Kerber reached the last four at the Foro Italico with a 7-6(2) 1-6 6-1 win.

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