By Alessandra Rizzo
ABOVE PHOTO: Serena Williams of the US returns the ball to Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky during their match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Tuesday, May 4, 2010. Williams won 7-6(2), 6-1.
(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
ROME —Top-ranked Serena Williams and older sister Venus each recently advanced to the quarterfinals at the Italian Open.
Serena Williams, in her first tournament in three months, defeated Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-2, 3-6, 6-0. Venus ousted Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3, 6-4.
Both sisters are back from knee injuries and could meet in the semifinals.
Second-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark lost her third-round match to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain, and eighth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland was ousted by Czech player Lucie Safarova, who rallied to win 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (1).
Serena had been off the tour since she won the singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open, and she was entered in Rome thanks to a wild card.
Against the 49th-ranked Petkovic, Serena said she felt “rusty.” Her game was erratic at times and a mid-match slump cost her the second set. She finished with nearly as many unforced errors (21) as winners (25).
“I definitely felt extremely rusty today,” Serena said. “I’m glad I was able to win because at least I can be guaranteed another match. I think I definitely need it.”
Serena got off to a good start, winning the first set with a five-game streak. But she quickly fell behind 4-1 in the second, came back to 4-3 but conceded another decisive break to Petkovic. In the third set, she picked up her game and played aggressively.
Serena next plays Maria Kirilenko of Russia, who defeated Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Serena said that after three months off she needs to stay healthy and play. That’s why, she explained, she decided to skip social events at home and come to play the clay-court event in Rome instead.
Serena said she told herself to “forget Oprah and Anna Wintour”—who co-chaired the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala Benefit on last Monday in New York.
“I was supposed to be there. I had a fabulous dress,” Serena said. “It hurt me … I wanted to really be there, but this is my career and I need the extra match.”
The fourth-seeded Venus, who had been sidelined with a knee problem since losing the Key Biscayne final, was solid against Peer. In the first set, she dropped only four points on serve. In the second, she saved two break points at 3-4 before getting the decisive break in the next game.
Venus said she was especially happy with her serve and movement on clay.
She will have a tough quarterfinal against Jelena Jankovic, who rolled to a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium. The Serb player ousted Venus in the 2008 quarterfinals on her way to her second Rome title.
In other action, Nadia Petrova of Russia won 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 against Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania, who knocked out defending champion Dinara Safina.