ROME // The Williams sisters were back in business in the Italian Open yesterday. Serena, the top-ranked player, got through to the quarter-finals in her first tournament in three months by defeating Germany's Andrea Petkovic of 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 on the clay court. And Venus, her older sister, also advanced, beating Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3, 6-4. The Americans are back from knee injuries, and could meet in the semi-finals after being placed in the same half of the draw. Serena had been off the tour since she won the singles and doubles at the Australian Open, and she was entered in Rome thanks to a wildcard.
Against the 49th-ranked Petkovic, Serena said she felt "rusty". Her game was erratic at times and a mid-match slump cost her the second set. In the end she had almost as many winners as unforced errors, 25 to 21. "I'm glad I was able to win because at least I can be guaranteed another match. I think I definitely need it," she said. Serena, who next plays Maria Kirilenko of Russia, said that after her three months off she needs to stay healthy and have match play. That is why, she explained, she decided to skip social events at home and come to play in Rome instead.
Serena said she told herself to "forget Oprah and Anna Wintour" - who co-chaired the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala Benefit on Monday in New York. "I was supposed to be there. I had a fabulous dress," Serena said. "It hurt me ... I wanted to really be there but this is my career and I need the extra match." The fourth-seeded Venus, who had been sidelined with a knee problem since losing the Key Biscayne final, will have a tough quarter-final against Jelena Jankovic, who rolled to a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Yanina Wickmayer. * AP