If Maria Sharapova wants to compete in another U.S. Open final, she will have to beat the No. 1 player in the world to get there.
Sharapova, the No. 3 seed and 2006 U.S. Open champ, will face No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in Friday's semifinals after she overcame an 0-4 deficit to beat No. 11 Marion Bartoli of France, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in an epic match that began Tuesday and finished Wednesday and lasted a combined 2 hours, 32 minutes.
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A date with Azarenka, the 23-year-old native of Belarus who crushed the Russian 6-3, 6-0 to win the Australian Open in January.
"Most importantly I'm glad to have a day to recover [Thursday]," Sharapova said on-court after the match. "She beat me pretty bad in Australia and I'm glad I have a chance to get her back in a Grand Slam."
In the other semifinal Friday, Italian Sara Errani will play either heavy favorite Serena Williams or Ana Ivanovic, who were slated to meet Wednesday night. No. 10 Errani beat her doubles partner and Italian countrywoman, Roberta Vinci, 6-2, 6-4.
Azarenka and Sharapova have each won one major title this year, with Sharapova completing the career Grand Slam by winning the French Open.
"She's been showing also amazing tennis this year," Azarenka said Tuesday after knocking off defending champion Samantha Stosur in a third-set tiebreaker. "She really stepped up her level, winning French Open. It was incredible, that achievement. Maria is always one of these players that she will give it all no matter what the score is."
If Sharapova is to have a chance of beating Azarenka, she will have to serve better than she did against Bartoli.
Sharapova double-faulted 11 times while serving 10 aces and committed 35 unforced errors against 44 winners.
Sharapova trailed 0-4 when the rains came Tuesday night, but she rebounded to take the second set Wednesday against Bartoli, a heavy hitter who uses both hands on her forehand and backhand.
"It's not a good feeling to come into a match to know that you're down 0-4," Sharapova said. "It's like you're going to try to win that set, but if you don't you're down 0-1."
Once she forced a third set, history was on her side. Sharapova is 12-0 this year in three-set matches.
She broke Bartoli in the ninth game of the third set with a forehand winner and then closed the match out with a 108-mph service winner and then pumped her fist to the crowd.
Now comes another match with Azarenka, who holds a 5-4 career lead on Sharapova. The Russian won their last encounter in the finals of Stuttgart on clay.
"Every match is new," Sharapova said. "She's been playing great tennis. I'm in the semifinals [for the first time] since '06, I think, so this is a great opportunity for the both of us."
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