ROME, Italy - Li Na and Maria Sharapova rounded out the quarterfinal line-up at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Thursday night, both surviving tight first sets then cruising to victory at the Premier-level tournament in Rome.
The No.8-seeded Li was the first to advance, allowing Chanelle Scheepers to catch up from 5-2 to 5-all before closing out the first set in a tie-break, then reeling off four games in a row to close out a confident 76(3) 62 victory.
"I have to say I'm happy with what I'm doing on court right now," Li said. "Last year I was up and down, up and down. And again today I was up 5-2 and lost concentration for a while, but I'm glad I got it back for the tie-break."
"I've played Dominika a couple of times, but not for a while," Li commented. "We always have tough matches. I'm looking forward to another good one."
The No.2-seeded Sharapova just wouldn't let go of her first set with No.13 seed Ana Ivanovic, rallying from 5-3 down and eventually staving off six set points to take it in a tie-break. She was also down in the second set, 3-1; but she fought back every time and eventually outdid her fellow former No.1, 76(4) 63.
"I started the match off really slowly. It was really important for me to get back into that set," Sharapova said. "When she had the set points I think I was more consistent in those moments, and that paid off. Ultimately it helped me with my confidence later when she was up a break again in the second set."
Sharapova's quarterfinal opponent will be Venus Williams. The head-to-head series is tied, 3-3. Williams has won their last two meetings handily - but they haven't played in almost three years, and this is their first on clay.
"We haven't played each other for a long time, but we've faced each other many times before and seen each other play too," Sharapova said. "It's great to be at this stage again and playing each other. I hope it'll be a great match."
Also among Thursday's winners was Flavia Pennetta, who gave her home crowd thrills with a commanding 60 61 win over Petra Cetkovska, winning 11 games to start before being broken at love and finishing it in the next game.
Pennetta has No.9 seed Serena Williams in the quarters. Williams has beaten Pennetta in both previous meetings, though this is the first on clay.
"Pennetta is playing great - I actually don't remember playing her in Miami, but I do remember the US Open," Williams said. "She was playing unbelievable today - I saw some of it, I said, 'Oh my God, she's playing really well.'
"Maybe that's why she got four wins against Venus."
Pennetta is actually 4-3 lifetime against Venus Williams.
"Flavia and I have played lots of great matches. She's a great player," Venus Williams commented. "I know why I lost some of them, but I won't get into it now. That's the past, and we look to the future. I love the future."