ROME, Italy - Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic battled through their quarterfinal matches at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia on Friday, setting up a blockbuster semifinal clash on Saturday at the Premier-level event. It's also a rematch of their Australian Open encounter - which Ivanovic won.
The No.11-seeded Ivanovic was the first of the pair to advance, pulling off a grueling 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over No.13 seed Carla Suárez Navarro. The win came a day after Ivanovic pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the week, stunning No.8 seed Maria Sharapova in straight sets (read more here).
"I enjoy big moments like yesterday, but you have to put them behind you for the next one," Ivanovic said. "I knew I had to be ready again for today because it was going to be a tough one. From the first moment I expected a lot of long rallies because Carla's a very good player on clay - but her shots suit me, so I can try and hit a lot of winners and come into the next to finish off the points against her."
The No.1-seeded Williams followed at night with a 6-1, 6-3 victory against Zhang Shuai, throwing down 35 winners to just 22 unforced errors to outdo the Chinese rising star in an hour and nine minutes.
Williams leads Ivanovic in their head-to-head, 4-1, but there's a revenge factor for Williams - that one Ivanovic win came in their last meeting, and at a Grand Slam too, in Australia earlier this year.
"I think it's a different match on a different surface," Ivanovic said of the looming match-up. "Both of us have a clear style of game and it kind of depends on the surface, but no matter what, it's going to be a tough match. She has won a lot of tournaments on clay and she plays very well on every surface.
"She has done a lot for women's tennis. It's always challenging to face such a good player."
"Whenever you play someone you lose to you're not necessarily thinking about revenge, you're thinking, 'I really want to win because they beat me last time,'" Williams said. "It's more motivation than anything, because last time they got the best of you, and you want to show them you can play too.
"So I won't necessarily be going for revenge tomorrow, I'll be going for the match."
The other semifinal will feature No.6 seed Jelena Jankovic and No.10 seed Sara Errani, who both posted big upsets in their quarterfinal matches on Friday. Errani was the first to rise up, grinding past No.2 seed Li Na, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 - her first win in seven career meetings against the World No.2.
"It was a very special win for me," Errani said. "To win against Li Na here at home is unbelievable."
Before this match, Errani's best career win in terms of ranking came against a No.4-ranked Radwanska at Roland Garros last year - she came into this match a dubious 0-20 against Top 3 players.
Jankovic followed with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, rallying from 4-2 down in the second set to close it out in straight sets. It wasn't Jankovic's first win over Radwanska, but it was her first since their first ever meeting at the 2008 French Open - she had lost five in a row since.
Jankovic and Errani are tied in their head-to-head, 1-1. This will be their first meeting on clay.
"She's the local favorite and will have the crowd on her side, but I've already experienced that this week against Pennetta, so I know what to expect," Jankovic said. "It's going to be a very physical match. I have to stay focused and calm and just try to play my game, and just do what I do best."