Kerber Breaks Top 10, Semifinal Line-Up Set
Published May 18, 2012 12:00
ROME, Italy - Saying afterwards she had "no doubt" Venus Williams could get to the top of the game again, Maria Sharapova beat her fellow former World No.1 in the quarterfinals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Friday.
In the pair's first clay court meeting it was Sharapova who came through, getting the only break of the 58-minute opening set in the second-to-last game (and fending off two break points as she served it out) then taking four of five games from 2-all in the second set to complete a hard-hitting 64 63 triumph.
"I hadn't played Venus in a long time, and the last few times I played her I lost, so I'm very happy with how things went today," Sharapova said. "Every match is tough, but it's always nice to come back somewhere like here, where I got a big win last year. It's great to be in the semifinals of this event again."
Williams had reached the quarterfinals for the third time in four Premier-level tournaments since returning to the WTA in March after a seven-month illness lay-off, and Sharapova was quick to express her belief in the American.
"No doubt," the Russian said when asked if Williams would be able to get to the top again. "It's good to see a player like her back playing, and being healthy. No matter how long she has been out of the game, she is experienced enough to know what she needs to come back. She's a great, competitive player."
Next up for the No.2-seeded Sharapova will be No.12 seed Angelique Kerber, who won a somewhat bizarre quarterfinal with No.4 seed Petra Kvitova, 76(2) 16 61. After rallying from 5-3 down and needing five set points to close out a see-saw, 68-minute first set, the two best lefties in the world embarked on some surprisingly lopsided sets - but the German got the important third one.
"Petra played great tonight, but I was just trying to focus on myself and fight," Kerber said. "We played a few weeks ago in Stuttgart and she beat me but the conditions were different this time - this was outdoors, and a night match too."
Kerber has now won six of her last 10 matches against Top 10 players, and will now join them - she will make her Top 10 debut on Monday, becoming the seventh German ever to rank in the elite (after Sylvia Hanika, Bettina Bunge, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, Steffi Graf, Anke Huber and Andrea Petkovic).
"It sounds very good, and it's a dream to be in the Top 10, of course, but I'm not thinking about this," Kerber said. "I just try to give my best out there and try to win matches. That's what I'm doing, and that's what I love."
Sharapova and Kerber are tied in their head-to-head series, 1-1, with both meetings coming this year - Sharapova won at the Australian Open, Kerber at Paris [Indoors]. This will be their first meeting on clay courts though.
"It will be good to get a rematch, but then again on clay it's always a bit of a challenge with the lefty spin," Sharapova said of the German. "It's a semifinal. Whoever gets here must be playing good tennis, so it will be tough."
"Maria is a great player and has been playing very well this year," Kerber said. "I'll go out there, try my best and just have fun. I have nothing to lose."