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An elbow injury has ended Serena Williams’ defence of her Internazionali d’Italia crown.

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Serena Williams has pulled out of the Internazionali d’Italia with a right elbow injury.The American defending champion had been due to face compatriot Christina McHale in the third round on Thursday, but will now switch her attentions to preparations for the looming French Open.

Williams’ withdrawal leaves Simona Halep as top seed and the Romanian wasted little time in seeing off the world number one’s older sibling to reach the last eight.

Venus Williams lost five service games on the bounce as Halep triumphed 6-1 6-2, setting up a quarter-final clash with qualifier Alexandra Dulgheru, who defeated eighth seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-3.

Third seed Maria Sharapova is also safely into the next round in Rome following a 6-3 6-3 win against Bojana Jovanovski.

The Russian lost her opening service game, but recovered well to emerge with a comfortable victory.

Sixth seed Eugenie Bouchard was not so lucky, though – dumped out by Carla Suarez Navarro, losing 6-7 (7-2) 7-5 7-6 (7-9).

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