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Tennis: Sharapova and Serena into semis

Holder Maria Sharapova beat Venus Williams to reach the semi-finals of the Italian Open yesterday, while Serena Williams enjoyed an easy passage to the last four.

World No 2 Sharapova downed Venus 6-4 6-3, while Serena was leading Flavia Pennetta 4-0 when the Italian retired through injury. She will play China's Li Na, who beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-1 7-6.

Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal moved a step closer to a possible final showdown after advancing from the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters yesterday.

Holder and top seed Djokovic survived a tight first set to beat Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 6-1, while Nadal recorded an impressive 6-4 7-5 victory over in-form Czech Tomas Berdych.

"The second set was the best I have played this week," Djokovic said after his match.

"I don't like to compare how I am playing to last year, but I am very happy with my game."

Nadal, for his part, commented: "I played one of my best matches of the year today.

"Tomas is a player with a lot of confidence and playing very well, so I am very happy with how I played."

Irish Independent