Maria Sharapova's comeback to beat Marion Bartoli in the quarter-finals of the US Open here yesterday was almost as inevitable as the rain which has put its habitual dampener on the second week of the year's final Grand Slam. When matches go to three sets there is no more likely winner than the 25-year-old Russian, who beat Bartoli 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to earn a semi-final against Victoria Azarenka.
Sharapova has been taken to three sets on 12 occasions this year and has won every time. Last year she lost just once in the 13 three-set matches she played. While she is rarely found wanting physically, it is Sharapova's remarkable mental strength that is usually the telling factor.
Bartoli led 4-0 when the match was called off because of rain late in the afternoon on Tuesday. When play eventually resumed after rain also delayed the start of play yesterday it was soon clear that the stage was set for another Sharapova comeback, although the recovery started too late for her to save the first set.
At 4-4 in the decider Bartoli saved two break points, but on the third Sharapova turned defence into attack to thrilling effect to give herself the chance to serve for the match. Playing in her first quarter-final here since she won the title six years ago, Sharapova went on to create match point with her 10th ace and promptly converted it when Bartoli hit a return wide and long.
"The rain break gave me a few hours to think about things," Sharapova said afterwards. "I came out flat yesterday and she was playing so tough. I had a good night's sleep and came back ready to start again."
The win ensured that Sharapova will climb one place to No 2 in the world rankings at the end of the tournament, though she cannot overhaul Azarenka. Sharapova won her last meeting with the world No 1, on clay in Stuttgart earlier this year, but Azarenka leads 5-4 in their overall head-to-head record.
In the other half of the draw Sara Errani reached the semi-finals at the expense of her friend and doubles partner, Roberta Vinci. Errani, who won 6-2, 6-4, said: "Playing a quarter-final against your best friend is difficult. There is much tension. Because of the rain we were on, off, on, off, so it was difficult. We know each other very well. We played together many times. It was strange to see her on the other side of the net. Normally when we walk on the court we go together and we talk. Today was a bit strange."
Errani, runner-up at this year's French Open, will now play the winner of the concluding quarter-final between Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic, which was due to start yesterday's night session.
Tournament organisers were hoping to make up for lost time following the interruptions caused by the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, which started unloading rain on the city on Tuesday. The first of the men's quarter-finals – Andy Murray against Marin Cilic and Roger Federer against Tomas Berdych – were also due to be played last night.
With no cover on any of the courts, bad weather has forced this tournament into a third week for the last four years in succession. Although at this stage there is still plenty of time to complete the event on Sunday as scheduled, organisers will be looking anxiously at the forecasts, which are predicting mixed weather for the next few days.
Thankfully, this should be the last year to feature the final weekend's "Super Saturday", when both men's semi-finals are scheduled, along with the women's final, giving no room for manoeuvre before the men's final on the following day. From next year the plan is to have a day's break between the men's semi-finals and final (as the three other Grand Slam events have), although it is yet to be decided whether the tournament would end on Sunday or Monday.
Andy Roddick's career ended when he was beaten 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 by Juan Martin del Potro in emotional scenes at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The American took the first set tie-break when their rain-delayed match resumed, but once Del Potro had won the second on another tie-break the 2009 champion eased to victory. In the quarter-finals Del Potro will play Novak Djokovic, whose opponent, Stanislas Wawrinka, retired with an injury when trailing 6-4, 6-1, 3-1.