Tennis: Sharapova bounces back to reach semis

Maria Sharapova has advanced to the US Open semi-finals for the first time since winning the title in 2006, rallying to defeat French 11th seed Marion Bartoli 3-6 6-3 6-4.

The Russian third seed, who improved to 12-0 in three-set matches this year, reached a Friday semi-final against World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, who beat Sharapova in the Australian Open final, for a berth in the championship match.

Azarenka, the top seed from Belarus who ousted Australian defending champion Samantha Stosur on Tuesday, leads the all-time rivalry with Sharapova 5-4, including a 6-3 6-0 victory in January's Melbourne final.

"Tough challenge," Sharapova said. "She beat me in Australia quite easily and I would love to get my revenge at a Grand Slam."

Sara Errani, the 10th seed, became the first Italian woman in the Open era to reach the US Open semi-finals with a 6-2 6-4 victory over 20th-seeded compatriot, doubles partner and best friend Roberta Vinci.

Errani, who in her best Grand Slam result lost to Sharapova at this year's French Open final, will next face the winner of a later quarter-final between US fourth seed Serena Williams and Serbian 12th seed Ana Inanovic.

"It's always hard to play against a friend and it was strange seeing her on the other side of the net," said Errani.

"I am happy to get to the semi-final. Can I win the title? I will tell you in three or four days."

Olympic runner-up Sharapova, who completed a career Grand Slam last June by winning the French Open, could not explain her third-set domination this year.

"A little bit of luck always helps," Sharapova said. "You work hard to achieve your goals, get to one-set all, and this is where it matters. You have to put it all on the line. It's not over until the last point."

Sharapova, 25, improved to 5-0 all-time against Bartoli but only after falling behind 4-0 on Tuesday before rain halted the match, postponing the conclusion for a day and giving the Russian time to regroup.

"That rain break gave me a few hours to think about things. I came out so flat and she was on fire," Sharapova said. "Bad four games yesterday. The match wasn't over. I had a chance to come out today and see how things go."

-AFP

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