World No. 6 Serena Williams pulled out of the WTA Rome International on Friday after hurting her back while training, but thinks she will recover in time for the French Open less than two weeks away.
Her sister Venus soon followed her off the red clay at the Foro Italico, losing in three sets to Serbian titleholder Jelena Jankovic in the quarter-finals.
The fifth-seeded Serena, 26, said of her back injury: “It just happened all of a sudden in practice. I just went for a shot and then my back got a little stuck. I don’t expect this to cause any problems in my preparations for the French.”
The younger Williams was to have met French sensation Alize Cornet in the quarter-finals on Friday after winning through to the last eight in two straight-sets matches.
Venus, for her part, had her power game dismantled by fourth-seeded Jankovic, who won 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
“I had a lot of great opportunities and I made a lot of opportunities for myself, but I made mistakes,” the world No. 9 said.
Looking ahead, 27-year-old Venus said: “I’m always looking forward to the French [Open]. Obviously I would have loved to be in the semifinals tomorrow, but now I have the opportunity to work on my game and I feel good about that.”
Jankovic will meet second-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova, who saw off Patty Schnyder of Switzerland in a blistering night match, 6-7 (3/7), 7-5, 6-2.
The 21-year-old second seed, who will next week reclaim the world No.1 ranking following Justine Henin’s retirement, moved into high gear to overcome a flagging Schnyder in the third set.
A match of breathtaking power also produced some of the most daring gambles, especially in the run-up to the first-set tiebreaker, when both players came up with daring drop shots.
The other semi-final will pit 18-year-old Cornet against sixth seed Russian Anna Chakvetadze who put an end to a dream run for 20-year-old Bulgarian qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
Pironkova struggled to find the power and depth with which she upset top seed Ana Ivanovic in the second round on Wednesday. The error-strewn match was Chakvetadze’s third three-setter of the tournament.
Pironkova, who has yet to get beyond the second round in a major, will rise in the rankings from 64 to 54 thanks to her run in Rome and the best win of her career so far from ousting world No.3 Ivanovic.
Cornet, ranked 34th in the world, romped into the quarter-finals on Thursday by upsetting world No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, 6-2, 6-4.