Rain, the enemy of the U.S. Open, has become the friend of Maria Sharapova.
Down 0-2 in the third set Sunday night, she took advantage of the rain delay to compose herself and pull out the win.
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Down 4-0 in the first set against Marion Bartoli in their quarterfinal match on Tuesday, Sharapova again benefited from rain that pushed the match to Wednesday. Though she still lost the first set, she finally gained enough footing to pull out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory, earning a semifinal berth against Victoria Azarenka.
"On Tuesday I think her footwork was not there," said Bartoli, who played a superb match and took the first set of her career off Sharapova. "I think she was really another player today."
"It was good to have that period of time just to get a good night's sleep and come back," Sharapova said. "It was a tough position to be in, but I'm just so thrilled to be in the semis again."
The match was first on Ashe Stadium and the start of it was delayed several times by quickly passing showers. It wasn't until after 1 p.m. that they finally got going, the two of them sick of taking the court, then having to leave and warm up in the gym several times.
When they resumed, Bartoli made Sharapova earn every point. The scrappy Frenchwoman played flat out, with a surprisingly good second serve and driving two-handed groundstrokes from either side. Things didn't look so sunny for Sharapova when Bartoli broke her to start the second set. But Sharapova dug in to break right back, and got another break in the eighth game, then held her serve to send the match to a third set. The odds were on Sharapova's side. She was 11-0 in three-set matches this year.
Sharapova got a break in the third game, then gave it right back when Bartoli's driving shot forced a forehand error and Bartoli then swatted a crosscourt winner. Sharapova got the break back in the ninth game, and held her serve after being down 15-30. She was mighty relieved to get past the pesky Bartoli.
"There is a reason she reached the quarterfinals," Sharapova said. "I think her level of play really showed today and yesterday why she was in the top 10 [now 11th] and why she is such a high-quality player."
Bartoli's consistently strong second serves stood out. "She was going a lot for her second serves," Sharapova said. "I think she probably had like 30 serves that were 99 miles per hour . . . Every time I looked at the clock it was like 99, 99. If I lose this match, I'm going to have nightmares."
For Bartoli, it was disappointing and satisfying at once.
"I tried my absolute hardest on every point," Bartoli said. "I have nothing to regret."