AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
ROME: Serena Williams withdrew today prior to the Rome Masters semi-final with China’s Li Na, with the American admitting she just had been feeling small twinges and will be fine for the French Open.
“I’m fine, I’ll be 100% for the French,” said 30-year-old Williams, who added she pulled out to make sure she didn’t aggravate the injury. “I’ve been feeling a little pain this week and I have a huge schedule coming up,” said the American who was on a 17-match win streak on clay.
China’s eighth seed Li could not have asked for better timing as she heads into her Roland Garros title defence beginning in eight days. Li will play for the Rome title against defending champion Maria Sharapova, who beat German Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-4.
“When I was warming up this morning, I was really looking forward to playing against one of the best players ever,” said Li, who has not won a title since her triumph in Paris a year ago. “Of course I’m happy to reach the final but I don’t like winning like that. I am so sorry for Serena and hope she gets healthy.”
Williams did not face much of a match in the quarter-finals, needing less than half an hour on court as opponent Flavia Pennetta quit after four games with a wrist problem. “I would have hoped to have played until the end of that match but it would have depended on my back,” said 13-time grand slam winner Williams, the 2002 Rome champion.
Williams has won two titles in recent weeks, in Charleston and Madrid. “I’ve been playing a lot and my body is getting used to a lot of matches again. My form is good heading to Paris. I want to be ready for the next couple of months (French Open, Wimbledon, Olympics and US Open).”
On Friday, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer set up their 25th Rome Masters semi-final clash while Rafael Nadal also progressed, ensuring the big three all made the last four of this crucial French Open warm-up.
Defending champion Djokovic, the top seed, fought through the first set, before racing away in the second to beat French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 6-1. Federer, fresh from his Madrid Masters triumph last weekend, followed the script with a 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Italian Andreas Seppi in just 53 minutes, with the Swiss third seed winning 14 of the first 15 points.
Second seed Nadal, meanwhile, got the better of Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych, grinding out a 6-4, 7-5 win and will meet fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. Rome is one of the few big events Federer has not won, losing finals in 2003 and 2006. But the Swiss star, who hasn’t played Djokovic since his marathon US Open semi-final defeat last year, showed his clay game is nearing perfection, just a week before the start of the French Open.
Nadal will face off in the final four against compatriot and sixth seed Ferrer, who beat French 15th seed Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.