Shaher Pe’er reached her first semifinal of the year on Friday, defeating Alberta Brianti of Italy 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Maryland Open.The 24-year-old Israeli entered her first tournament of the North American hard-court season on the back of four straight first round exits, but is picking up some much-needed confidence in Maryland following her opening round losses at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.MCT contributed to this report.Pe’er, ranked number 24 in the world and seeded No. 1 in Maryland, faced Austria’s Tamira Paszek in the semifinals late Saturday night.Also Saturday, Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich faced Somdev Devvarman and Treat Conrad Huey in the semifinals of the Los Angeles International.The Israelis, who had lost in the first round in five of their previous six tournaments, defeated Marcos Baghdatis and Michael Russell 6-1, 7-6 (4) in Friday’s quarterfinals and are aiming to win their second title of the year after triumphing in Eastbourne in June.Meanwhile, Serena Williams was back at her Grand Slamwinning best Friday night at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, dominating second seeded Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6- 3 in just over an hour.The victory was Williams’s sixth straight over Sharapova and put the 13-time Grand Slam winner in her first semifinal in over a year.“I definitely started fast, and I guess I was in control,” Williams said. “We have a good thing going, and it’s good for women’s tennis - it was exciting.This is a great hard-court win for me.”Williams entered the tournament ranked 169th after missing most of the past year because of a foot injury, hematoma and blood clots in her lungs. But in dispatching Sharapova, the No.5 player in the world, Williams left little doubt that she still is the one to beat.“Her biggest strength is power, and you don’t see so much of that in the top 10 anymore,” Sharapova said. “It really makes her dangerous.”Williams broke Sharapova’s serve in the first game of the match, then hammered home an early statement with an ace at the end of her opening service game.Riding an overpowering serve and a glut of Sharapova errors, Williams jumped to a 5-0 lead.Sharapova emphatically pumped her fist after winning the next game with a stinging forehand, and for a moment it looked as if the biggest Bank of the West Classic crowd since 2004 might be in for a little theater.But Williams took the set shortly thereafter on Sharapova’s double fault, and she didn’t waste any time running away with the second set.Williams faced Sabine Lisicki in the semifinal late Saturday night.Dominika Cibulkova, a 22-yearold from Slovakia, showed off an aggressive style while dispatching Marina Erakovic 6-1, 6-1.She played third-seeded Marion Bartoli in the semis after the Frenchwoman reached her seventh semifinal of the year when Ayumi Morita retired with a right-ankle injury.