DUBAI, February 19 – The Williams sisters moved within one match of another meeting when Serena Williams produced a performance of firm commitment and heavy hitting to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open here on Wednesday.
The world number one from the United States won 6-4, 6-2 against Zheng Jie, the Wimbledon semi-finalist from China – seven hours after her elder sister Venus Williams also reached the last eight.
Serena had to fight hard in the first set, capturing it thanks to one break of serve chiselled painstakingly out in a 12-point ninth game full of great ground-strokes from both players.
After closing out the set without fuss, Serena broke again at once and dominated the second set, though she was not especially satisfied with her performance.
"My intensity was high, but I think I can play a lot better, to be honest," she said.
"I made some errors in the first set which I could have won more easily."
But Serena admitted that physically she was in good shape and that there were few problems with the knee which caused her to withdraw from the semi-finals of the Paris Open last week.
She was also in good humour about a ball boy, who caused a delay by taking time out to tie up his shoe laces.
"I thought it was very cute. It didn’t bother me," she said.
She now plays Ana Ivanovic for only the second time. The French Open champion won 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) against Camille Pin of France, having been a set and a break up.
Earlier Venus Williams progressed by beating one of the most spectacularly rising players.
The Wimbledon champion produced an impressively solid performance against Alize Cornet, a 19-year-old from Nice who has risen more than 50 places in little more than a year to within sight of the top ten.
But, after an absorbing first set, Venus made light of the young threat, and imposed her forceful game upon the tactical patterns which Cornet tried to create.
She also made many more forays to the net than she used to, eventually winning by a slightly misleadingscoreline of 6-3, 6-1.
"I missed a few shots long and I was upset about that, but I was able to improve," said Venus adding, "I was good at the net and, yes, I like it up there."
She next plays Elena Dementieva, the Olympic champion from Russia.
The biggest upset of the tournament so far happened in the other half of the draw with the defeat of Jelena Jankovic, the 2008 year-end world number one, by the 16th-seeded Estonian, Kaia Kanepi.
"It was one of the worst matches of my career," said Jankovic after her 6-2, 7-5 loss. It was horrible. I basically beat myself."
"It was another player out there. It wasn’t me. I felt weak. I kept framing the ball and couldn’t keep two balls in the court."
Kanepi served well, hit solidly off the ground, and mixed up her tactics well until the possibility of victory came close and then her standard dropped a little.
Jankovic came back from 0-4 to 5-5 in the second set, at which stage it seemed she might take it to a decider. But when serving for 6-6 she half-fell and did the splits on the second point, and lost the third to a net cord.
After that her margin for errors was small, and two mistimed ground strokes under pressure from Kanepi finished the match just when Jankovic seemed to be playing better.