Dubai - Venus Williams has continued to raise hopes of a return to the top echelons with her third straight sets win in a row and a place in the semi-finals of the Dubai Open on Thursday
The seven-times former Grand Slam winner overcame Flavia Pennetta, the seed-destroying Italian, 6-4, 7-5 with a mixed performance which included a slow start and a tense finish but some typically powerful ground stroking during the guts of the match
It followed her rather more impressive conquests of Ana Ivanovic, the former world number one, and Elena Vesnina, the Russian she had never previously beaten, and increased Venus' chances of regaining a title she captured last time she was here, five years ago.
However she failed to serve out for the match at 5-4 and then went love-40 down when she attempted to close it out at 6-5, and there were suggestions she might have been getting low on energy.
"I was just thinking, god, what if she comes back and plays amazing," said Venus, perhaps aware that a third set may not have unfolded in her favour.
"She's very tenacious and has done unbelievable to get back from injury."
Venus has done similarly. The 33-year-old American has already confounded predictions with her recent progress and is already certain to climb from outside the top 40 back up to the mid-thirties.
Asked how she had managed to get back from her illness and fitness problems, Venus said: "I pray and try a million different things all the time.
"Serena has been extremely supportive and my family have changed their life style for me. It makes me feel better."
Asked if she looked forward to an all-Williams final, Venus replied: "That would be fantastic, but we both have to get there first."
An all-Williams final last happened five years ago in the WTA Championships in Doha when Serena won.
Venus served consistently without being overwhelming, but often effectively when it mattered, saving 11 of the 15 break points against her.
She also hit a high ratio of ground-stroking winners. The sunny conditions, she said, were a bit like playing in California, where she was raised.
As Venus hinted, Pennetta did indeed look threatening late in the match, earning two break points at 3-4 in the second set, and became even more dangerous when she converted a break point to get back from 3-5 to 5-5.
At that stage the Italian was striking the ball at least as well as the 33-year-old American, who appeared to be flagging and might have slipped into difficulties had she not rescued the final game from love-40.
But ultimately Pennetta, who on Wednesday had ousted the second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, could not this time find her best when it mattered most, allowing Venus, who may have been jaded after her late night doubles match with sister Serena Williams, to escape.
Venus next plays Caroline Wozniacki, the former world number one from Denmark, who played a sensible, consistent match to win 6-1, 6-2, against Sorana Cirstea, the world number 27 from Rumania who had won three of their previous six encounters.
Meanwhile Serena, who had to save two set points in a difficult opening match against Elena Makarova, another Russian, was due for a quarter-final with Jelena Jankovic, the former world number one from Serbia.
Results on the fourth day of the WTA Dubai Open on Thursday (x denotes seeding):
Venus Williams (USA) bt Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 6-3, 7-5
Caroline Wozniacki (DENx8) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 6-1, 6-2