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Rain helps Maria Sharapova regroup at U.S. Open

Maria Sharapova of Russia raises her fist after

Maria Sharapova of Russia raises her fist after beating Nadia Petrova, of Russia, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the fourth round of play at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. (Sept. 2, 2012) Credit: AP

Maria Sharapova was about to be washed out of the U.S. Open Sunday night. Then the rains came.

It was just a few sprinkles, but it was enough to cause a delay of 1 hour, 13 minutes in her match with Nadia Petrova. That was enough time to allow her to compose herself, and in doing so, she was able to reach the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win.

In the delay, her coach, Thomas Hogstedt, was blunt. "He told me to get my act together, first of all," Sharapova said.

Then she talked to her father, Yuri. "He told me you've got to keep fighting, got to keep fighting,'' she said, "and I did."

She was down a break, 2-0, in the third set and Petrova seemed to have seized the momentum, winning the second set after letting two early breaks slip away. But Sharapova broke back right after the restart and broke Petrova in the seventh game before serving out the match.

The Open has been a bit of an anathema to Sharapova ever since she won it in 2006. She had not made it past the fourth round since then until Sunday night.

It seemed to be going her way after a relatively easy opening set. Then she lost her serve twice to start the second set and Petrova ran out to a 4-0 lead. Sharapova broke back twice but couldn't hold the momentum, and when she was broken a third time, the match went to the third set. After two games, the sprinkles came, delaying it. Sharapova had lost nine straight points.

The defending Open champion, Samantha Stosur, ended the run of British 18-year-old Laura Robson. Stosur's hard spinning serves and strong forehands proved a little too much for Robson, but it took Stosur nine match points to put away the blossoming Brit, 6-4, 6-4.

Robson refused to fold in the eighth game, saving five match points on her serve. She saved two more in breaking Stosur's serve to make the score 4-5, and one more on her serve in the 10th game before a forehand struck long ended a run in which she defeated Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters and Li Na.

"After Clijsters, I thought it was a great win, but I needed to back it up; that's what I did [against Li]," Robson said. "But today has been a bit disappointing, so I'm going to drown my sorrows in some shopping."

Still, this has been the best run of her young career, one that will carry her up significantly from No. 89 in the world rankings.

Stosur has had a tendency to choke in tight situations. "It can get a little bit frustrating if you let it get to you," she said. "I think the more experienced you are, you don't let those things affect you. Probably had a few flashbacks to a few matches last year when I had match points and couldn't close it out."

In the quarterfinals, Stosur will face top-seeded Victoria Azarenka, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Anna Tatishvili. Sharapova will face 11th-seeded Marion Bartoli, a 1-6, 6-2, 6-0 winner over fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova.

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