Sore back forces Serena to withdraw


Serena Williams withdrew on Saturday 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 Germany’s 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.
Sharapova storms past Venus and into Rome semis: Defending champion Maria Sharapova shattered hopes of a Williams sisters double act at the Rome International by breezing past Venus Williams 6-4, 6-3 on Friday to reach the semi-finals.
But Serena Williams, the ninth seed, advanced 4-0 when Italian opponent Flavia Pennetta withdrew with a right wrist injury. Sharapova, seeded second, and the winner on clay in Stuttgart last month, demolished the elder Williams, who ended her afternoon with a fifth double-fault on match point to exit the event she won 13 years ago as a teenager.
Sharapova will face Germany’s Angelique Kerber who beat fourth seeded Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7/2), 1-6, 6-1 with the Czech player treated on court and off for an abdominal injury. Serena Williams, last week’s winner in Madrid, won her 17th consecutive match on clay. “No-one wants to win like that, but I’m happy to get half a day off,” said the American of Pennetta’s retirement.