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Sharapova to face No. 1 Azarenka in U.S. Open semifinals

updated 6:31 AM EDT, Thu September 6, 2012
Maria Sharapova turns up the heat during her quarterfinal victory over Marion Bartoli at the U.S. Open.
Maria Sharapova turns up the heat during her quarterfinal victory over Marion Bartoli at the U.S. Open.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maria Sharapova battles past Marion Bartoli in U.S. Open quarterfinals
  • Russian third seed into semis for the first time since her 2006 title in New York
  • She will face world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who beat her in Australian Open final
  • Olympic champion Serena Williams will play Sara Errani in the other semifinal

(CNN) -- Maria Sharapova set up a U.S. Open semifinal clash with world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka after battling past French 11th seed Marion Bartoli on Wednesday.

Third seed Sharapova was taken to three sets by the 2007 Wimbledon finalist, who had raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set when their quarterfinal match was halted by rain on Tuesday.

Bartoli duly closed out the opener, but Sharapova fought back to claim the match 3-6 6-3 6-4 after two and a half hours.

She has now won 12 successive times in matches that have gone to three sets since her third-round defeat in New York last year, and 24 out of 25 since the start of 2011.

"I think the rain delay gave me some time to think about things," the French Open champion said. "I came out so flat yesterday, and she was playing so well. I just played a bad four games, but I knew the match wasn't over and had a chance to come back and turn things around."

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates his 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over David Ferrer of Spain in the men's singles semifinal match at the 2012 U.S. Open on Sunday, September 9. The tournament, the last grand slam event of the year, continues through Monday in Queens, New York. Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates his 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over David Ferrer of Spain in the men's singles semifinal match at the 2012 U.S. Open on Sunday, September 9. The tournament, the last grand slam event of the year, continues through Monday in Queens, New York.
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Sharapova will be seeking revenge for her thrashing by Azarenka in the final of the opening grand slam of the season in Australia, but has lost four successive matches in straight sets to the Belorussian on hard courts.

"Tough challenge," she admitted. "She beat me in Australia quite easily and I would love to get my revenge at a grand slam."

The Russian reached the last four at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2006, when she claimed the second of her four grand slam successes.

In June she beat Sara Errani in the final at Roland Garros to complete a full set of the majors, and she could potentially face the Italian again in a title match in New York.

However, the 10th seed must get past the imposing figure of Serena Williams, who needed less than an hour to dispose of fellow former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the closing quarterfinal.

The American, seeking her fourth U.S. Open title but first since 2008, demolished the Serbian 6-1 6-3.

"I felt much better moving," said the Wimbledon and Olympic champion after winning 26 of her 29 first-serve points and firing 12 aces. "I was excited I'm moving faster. Feels good. I felt solid.

"I feel like I'm going to get more focused and serious and start playing 'Serena tennis' in the next couple of rounds, if I get to play two rounds. That's my goal."

Errani has lost all three meetings with the 14-time grand slam champion, with two of those on hard courts in 2009.

She became the first Italian to reach a grand slam semifinal outside of the French Open after beating compatriot, best friend and doubles partner Roberta Vinci 6-2 6-4.

"A quarterfinal with your best friend is difficult," Errani said. "There was a lot of tension. We know each other very well and have played together many times.

"Normally when we walk out on the court we go together and we speak -- today was a bit strange, especially to see her on the other side of the net."

Tennis star launches candy line
Maria Sharapova, on and off the court

They have reached the semifinals of the doubles event in New York, and next week Errani will be ranked as the format's top player for the first time, with Vinci No. 2.

"It's the best year of my life. I'm playing very well and my ranking is very high," said the 25-year-old, who has won four singles titles in 2012.

"I just go on the court, fight the best I can and that's it -- and by winning more matches I get more confidence, and with that you go on the court thinking you can win more than before."

Meanwhile, 12th seed Ivanovic was able to take positives from her defeat, having reached the last eight of a grand slam for the first time since her breakthrough victory at the 2008 French Open.

"Overall I'm very satisfied," said the Serbian, who had never before featured in the New York quarterfinals and who at one stage dropped out of the top 50.

"I played some really good tennis to get into this position, and even tonight I felt I was striking the ball so nicely on both sides. That's something I've worked hard for. It's a big step for me."

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