<
>

Serena, Jankovic, Dementieva advance in Rome

5/17/2007 - Tennis

ROME -- Serena Williams' clay-court game is rounding into
shape ahead of the French Open.

Williams appeared frustrated at times but eventually overpowered
Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3, 6-3 Thursday to reach the quarterfinals
of the Italian Open.

"I feel like everything is coming together," Williams said.
"I'm doing everything to stay healthy. That's my goal this year,
to stay healthy."

Williams will face 14th-seeded Patty Schnyder, who beat Samantha
Stosur 6-4, 6-4.

Third-seeded Jelena Jankovic defeated Alona Bondarenko 6-4, 7-5
and will play Elena Dementieva, who advanced when fifth-seeded
Nadia Petrova retired with a lower back injury.

Four months ago, Peer pushed Williams to three sets before
losing in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. Williams went
on to win her eighth Grand Slam title.

"It was definitely a good test. She plays a little like
[Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario]," Williams said. "She gets a lot of
balls back. I knew she was going to be a tough
opponent on clay. I thought I did pretty well."

Williams and Roger Federer have a shot at completing a Grand
Slam if they win the remaining three majors this season. The French
Open begins May 27.

"Hopefully, I'll be playing seven rounds in Paris and winning
seven matches. Then after that I'm going to the next Grand Slam,"
Williams said. "Only two people can do it this year, so I'm one of
those two."

Williams came close to the Grand Slam in 2002, winning three
majors, but she sat out the Australian Open. She completed her
so-called "Serena Slam" by winning in Melbourne at the start of
2003.

Peer's quickness matched Williams' power at the start and
neither player held serve until Williams took a 4-2 lead in the
first set.

Eventually, Williams' strength won out and she improved to 18-2
this year.

"I've been working out. During the clay-court season you have
to get yourself in better shape," Williams said. "All the matches
last about a half-hour longer than usual."

Early in the second set, Williams slammed a ball that barely
missed hitting a line judge, earning a warning from the chair
umpire.

"I felt so bad. Thank God I didn't hit her," Williams said.
"Obviously, I was not going for the line judge. But that's what
happens when you lose your temper, you can take someone out."

It occurred after Williams missed a first serve.

"I didn't serve well at all today," she said. "I don't think
I got one first serve in during that game. But usually when I serve
bad at the beginning of a tournament, it gets better."

Second seed Svetlana Kuznetsova had to work harder than expected to reach the quarterfinals when she eased past Yuliana Fedak of the Ukraine, 7-6, 6-1.

Kuznetsova, the highest-ranking player left in the clay-court tournament after the elimination of top seed Amelie Mauresmo on Wednesday, twice failed to serve out for the first set and was
4-1 down in the tiebreak before finding her rhythm.

Fedak, ranked No. 138 in the world, had entered the main draw only as a lucky loser from qualifying.

"It was very hard for me. This is my third week in a row playing tennis and I felt so uncomfortable on the ball in the first set, so it was very frustrating," Kuznetsova said at the
courtside.

"But I knew I could play better, so I just tried to concentrate and in the end I started to play better."

Kuznetsova's reward was a last-eight meeting against last
year's Rome runner-up, Russian Dinara Safina, who beat Kateryna
Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-2, 6-3.

In other action, Daniela Hantuchova eliminated Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 6-3.

Stosur upset fourth-ranked Mauresmo on Wednesday, but she
couldn't get past Schnyder.

"She plays really well on the clay and she's really tricky,"
Williams said of Schnyder, who was runner-up to Mauresmo two years
ago.

Jankovic dropped her serve three times in the second set but
held serve on match point.

Petrova had a trainer massage her back after Dementieva broke to
take a 4-3 lead in the first set. Dementieva won the opening point
in the next game before Petrova called it quits.

"I had an accident in the gym before the tournament," Petrova
said. "It was getting better but then when I ran for a ball in the
match today, I felt a sharp pain.

"It's a shame. I was really hoping to go far this week. Even
today I was showing good tennis."

Petrova did not say whether the injury would prevent her
taking part in the French Open, which starts on May 27.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.