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Serena overcomes 2009 nemesis Kuznetsova in toughest match to date

updated 3:13 PM EDT, Tue June 4, 2013
Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after getting match point against David Ferrer of Spain during the men's singles final match of the French Open at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris, on Sunday, June 9. Nadal won 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after getting match point against David Ferrer of Spain during the men's singles final match of the French Open at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris, on Sunday, June 9. Nadal won 6-3, 6-2, 6-3
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Serena Williams beats 2009 French Open Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets
  • World number one to face last year's runner-up Sara Errani in last four
  • Italian returns to semifinals after beating Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets

(CNN) -- Serena Williams avenged her 2009 French Open defeat against Svetlana Kuznetsova when beating the unseeded Russian 6-1 3-6 6-3 in a gripping quarterfinal.

Kuznetsova lifted the trophy at Roland Garros in 2009 but was unable to repeat her success despite breaking the world No. 1's serve for the first time in the tournament.

Read: Serena faces date with destiny

Williams cruised to the first set in 28 minutes but that was an inaccurate barometer of what was to come, with the remainder of the match taking an hour and a half.

Despite Kuznetsova taking an early break in the third set, Williams found another level to reach the French Open semifinals for the first time since 2003.

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The 31-year-old may have 15 grand slams to her name but she will be conscious that only one of those came in Paris, back in 2002 when beating sister Venus in the final.

"I was so determined to get through that match, and I really, really, really wanted it more than anyone, I think," she told reporters afterwards.

"I was really just fighting, giving it everything I had out there. I've been able to come back a lot throughout my career. I don't think anything really changed."

Victory extended Williams' record winning streak to 29 matches, a run that has only been bettered by her sister Venus (35) and Belgium's Justine Henin (32) this century.

Read: Sharapova completes career grand slam

She will face Italian fifth seed Sara Errani in the semifinal after last year's runner-up continued her fine form at Roland Garros when beating fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 7-6 (8-6).

The victory was Errani's first against a player ranked in the top five and now she must beat Williams for the first time if she is to return to the final, where she was beaten by Maria Sharapova last year.

Former champion Monica Seles, who won the French Open three times between 1990-1992, believes Errani's chances are slim.

"I think Serena is playing the best clay court tennis of her life," she told CNN.

"I think that having a tough match like she did today, when she played three sets, will only make her stronger. She's also as focused as I've ever seen her."

Kuznetsova's 2009 French Open win
Women's tennis top stars talk personal
Can Sharapova retain French Open title?

Williams may have lost in the first round in Paris last year but she has dominated the women's game since -- winning Wimbledon, the Olympic singles and doubles, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championships.

After paying tribute to Kuznetsova, who came into Roland Garros ranked No. 39 after missing the second half of last year with a knee injury, Williams turned her attentions to an opponent against whom she boasts a 5-0 record.

"Svetlana played very well," she said after her toughest match of the championships. "She's such a great player. She's taken a little time off due to injury, but she's been consistent, at least in the slams.

"She has won this tournament before so I am happy to get through such a tough match. It was very difficult and I am very tired.

"Against Sara, it will be another tough match, she's a great fighter."

Errani is now through to her third grand slam semifinal, having also made the last four at the U.S. Open last year.

Having finally ended a run of 28 matches against players ranked in the top five, she is now hoping that Williams' relative lack of success may count in her favor.

"It's going to be very difficult because she's very strong, and physically she's an incredible athlete," Errani said.

"She has a lot of power and it's never easy to play against her. But maybe clay is a bit better than the other surfaces for me."

On Wednesday, defending champion Sharapova takes on Jelena Jankovic and Maria Kirilenko faces Victoria Azarenka in the remaining quarterfinals.

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