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Ivanovic comeback gathers pace at Rome tennis Open

Former world number one Ana Ivanovic continued her return to form at the claycourt Rome Open at the Foro Italico here on Thursday as she took her third successive seed`s scalp.



Rome: Former world number one Ana Ivanovic continued her return to form at the claycourt Rome Open at the Foro Italico here on Thursday as she took her third successive seed`s scalp.

The Serbian beauty beat 13th seed Nadia Petrova 6-2, 7-5 to reach Friday`s semi-finals following victories over ninth seed Viktoria Azarenka and fifth seed Elena Dementieva.

Two years ago Ivanovic had climbed to the top of the world rankings and also won the French Open but her star has fallen far since then and she currently sits at number 58.

But she breezed through the first set against Petrova and broke her in the second game of the second.

Petrova hit back, though, and two breaks saw her go ahead 4-3.

However, the Russian could not stem her tide of unforced errors - she racked up 32 by the end - and was broken straight back to love before she sent a forehand into the tramlines on match point to allow Ivanovic to progress.

World number one Serena Williams had few problems in dismissing Russia`s Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-4 to reach a possible semi-final against world number four and sister Venus, who plays seventh seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in the last of the day`s quarter-finals.

And Serena was clear about what her preference would be.

"I want Venus to win mostly because I want her to do the best," she said. "I never root against Venus so I definitely want her to do well."

Serena looked set for a particularly short afternoon as she took 10 of the first 11 games against her 37th ranked opponent, who had taken her to three sets as a teenager at Roland Garros six years ago.

But Kirilenko rallied to win three games in a row as Serena`s forehand went to pot.

"That just boils down a little bit to match toughness. I definitely felt it should have been 5-0 and me serving it out," said Serena.

"But I was up against an opponent who never gives up, she`s known for that.

"As I play more I`ll definitely know how to close these games out."

She steadied herself to hold at 4-3 and then served out the match despite her unforced error count creeping up at the end.

But having smashed down eight aces and 19 outright winners, her 18 unforced errors did not stop her advancing.

When asked if it was the sexy performance she had promised after her third round victory, she replied: "I think so, it was fast, hot and sweaty.

"Sometimes I just say `Serena, hit an ace` and it happens, which is kind of cool.

"But I wouldn`t do that on every point, I don`t want to wear my arm out so I mix it up and try to make it exciting for everyone," she joked.

Playing in her first tournament since winning the Australian Open in January, Serena admitted her clay form has surprised her.

"I can`t believe I`m still in the competition," she said.

Bureau Report

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