ROME (AP) _ Venus Williams reached the semifinals of a tournament for the first time this season, beating Jelena Jankovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 Friday at the Italian Open.
The ninth-seeded American advanced to face the winner of the quarterfinal match between Martina Hingis or Flavia Pennetta.
Williams' previous best result this year was a quarterfinal appearance in Warsaw, Poland, earlier this month. That tournament marked her return after three months out with right elbow and arm injuries.
Seventh-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova will play fellow Russian Dinara Safina in the other semifinal.
Kuznetsova snapped local qualifier Romina Oprandi's 15-match winning streak with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4) win, and Safina routed fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-1.
The Italian Open is an important clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which starts May 28.
Williams and Jankovic traded long baseline rallies before the Serbian eventually wore down. After a long rally in the final set, an exhausted Jankovic sat in a linesman's chair and Williams applauded the move.
One game later, with Williams ahead 3-0 in the third, Jankovic took an injury timeout to treat a blister on the sole of her left foot.
Williams still struggled on serve for the third consecutive match. She faced 15 break points, saving eight of them.
The 133rd-ranked Oprandi entered this week with a 10-match winning streak after winning two ITF Women's Circuit tournaments. She won two more matches in qualifying here and three in the main draw, before Kuznetsova ended the Swiss-born Italian's run.
``She has a very good game. I just stuck in the match. I had to play my best,'' said Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open winner.
Oprandi had a match point at 5-3 in the third set but returned a serve just wide.
``My luck ran out,'' Oprandi said.
The 20-year-old Oprandi was an established junior player _ she won the Orange Bowl tournament for 12-and-under players in 1998 _ but has had trouble breaking through on the pro circuit after a series of injuries.
The 16th-seeded Safina overpowered Dementieva, who had seven double-faults and won only 30 percent of points on her second serve.
``The score was easy, but I know what she doesn't like and I played my game today,'' Safina said.
Safina, the younger sister of two-time Grand Slam winner Marat Safin, kept the ball in play and waited for Dementieva to miss. She committed only 15 unforced errors to Dementieva's 27.
Safina upset second-seeded Kim Clijsters on Thursday, meaning Dementieva was the highest seeded player remaining in the draw.