Originally created 05/20/05

Venus Williams advances to Istanbul semis



ISTANBUL, Turkey - Top-seeded Venus Williams tuned up for the French Open with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over seventh-seeded Anna Chakvetadze on Thursday to reach the Istanbul Cup semifinals.

Joining Williams in the next round of this clay-court warmup for the French Open were second-seeded Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, third-seeded Anna Smashnova of Israel and Tszvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.

Williams had three aces and her serve reached 105 mph against her Russian opponent in this $200,000 tournament leading to Monday's start of the French Open.

"It was perfect preparation for Roland Garros," Williams said.

Williams said she initially had difficulty judging the serve of her opponent, who was "trying everything to stay there." In the rain-interrupted second set, Williams was in command.

Williams will next play Pironkova, who defeated Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3, 7-6 (4). In other quarterfinals, Vaidisova beat fifth-seeded Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany 7-5, 7-6 (6), and Smashnova defeated eighth-seeded Mashona Washington of the United States 6-3, 6-1.