|Maria Sharapova, (Max Rossi/REUTERS) and Serena Williams, (Filippo Monteforte/AFP) both advanced to the semis at the Italian Open.
ROME, ITALY - Reigning champion Maria Sharapova and fellow former world No. 1 Serena Williams were easy quarterfinal victors Friday at the $2.168 million Italian Open tennis event, a clay-court French Open tune-up.
The second-seeded Sharapova continued her winning ways in Rome by dousing wild card and fellow former top-ranked star Venus Williams 6-4, 6-3 in 1 hour, 41 minutes. The Russian star tallied four service breaks, compared to only one for the American loser.
The three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova is now 4-3 lifetime against the seven-time major titlist Venus, who had won their previous two encounters. The two women hadn't played each other since 2009, and the Russian hadn't beaten the American since 2007.
Sharapova beat reigning U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur in last year's finale in Rome.
Venus was the Rome champion back in 1999 and runner-up in 1998.
Meanwhile, fresh off her clay-court title in Madrid last week, the ninth- seeded world No. 6 Serena was leading Italian crowd favorite Flavia Pennetta 4-0 in the first set when Pennetta retired after 28 minutes of tennis, citing a right wrist injury.
The red-hot Serena, now 17-0 on clay this season, upset current world No. 1 star Victoria Azarenka in last week's finale on the blue clay in Madrid.
The 2002 Rome champion Serena's semifinal opponent on Saturday will be eighth-seeded Chinese star Li Na, who handled 14th-seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) at Foro Italico. Li is the reigning French Open champ.
Serena is 5-1 lifetime against her fellow 30-year-old Li, including wins in their last four matchups. The two haven't met since 2010 and have never squared off on clay.
German Angelique Kerber, the No. 12 seed, outlasted fourth-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7-2), 1-6, 6-1.
Kerber improved to 6-4 against top-10 women this year.
The Wimbledon champion Kvitova beat Kerber in a quarterfinal in Stuttgart last month in the only previous meeting between the two players.
The 2012 Rome titlist will collect $385,000.