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Serena cruises as Sharapova digs deep

ESPN staff
September 5, 2012 « Trott discovers broken finger | Chartbeat test »
Maria Sharapova lets out a roar of delight © PA Photos
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Serena Williams waltzed into the semi-finals of the US Open, defeating Ana Ivanovic in straight sets on Wednesday evening.

Williams overpowered her opponent throughout the 6-1 6-3 triumph as she took another step toward her 15th grand slam title. The Wimbledon and London 2012 champion is in ominous form heading into the final four, having dropped 16 games in her five matches at Flushing Meadows.

It was more of the same in her quarter-final, as Williams surged to a commanding lead early in the opening set. Ivanovic, who is climbing back up the rankings after losing her nerve on serve in recent years, had no answers as she was forced deep behind the baseline and surrendered the first set.

Facing only two break points on her own delivery, Williams thundered down 12 aces in the contest before breaking Ivanovic at a critical point in the second set. She duly served out the match to set up a semi-final showdown with Sara Errani.

Errani's superb year continued as she got the better of her fellow Italian and doubles partner Roberta Vinci . Since changing her racket, Errani has been a player transformed, reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, final of the French Open and now has a semi-final appearance at the US Open to look forward to after triumphing 6-2 6-4.

Maria Sharapova delved deep into her reserves to battle back from a set down to beat Marion Bartoli 3-6 6-3 6-4 to book her place in the semi-finals of the US Open.

The Russian had a tough day on serve and found Bartoli a tricky puzzle to solve, but she battled hard to claim the second before turning on the class in the final set.

Sharapova started 4-0 down following the previous day's rain but hit back to break immediately, courtesy of a double fault but the concession of the opening four games proved too big an obstacle to scale as Bartoli closed out the first set.

Sharapova's form was much improved despite dropping the opening set as she hit with pace from the baseline, forcing Bartoli out of her comfort zone of hitting with two hands on both wings.

However, for all the improvement off the ground, the serve continued to drag her down. There were four double faults in the first set and she almost matched that tally in the first game of the second, as three doubles gifted the break to Bartoli.

Bartoli is equally fragile on serve and she handed Sharapova an immediate break back. Bartoli's exaggerated swishing of the racket on the moment of serve did little to aid Sharapova, but she dug in to stave off three break points to hold in the third game.

And having come through that tough third game in positive fashion, Sharapova appeared to grow in confidence and stretched Bartoli. A break came her way in the eighth game and confidently served out, sealing the set with an ace down the middle.

Sharapova had won all their previous four meetings and she drew on that belief - as well as her perfect record in three-set matches this year- in the third. Breaks were traded early on and the quality of the hitting continued as both players refused to give ground. The pivotal moment came in the ninth game as Sharapova, at the third time of asking, broke the Bartoli serve.

There was every opportunity for the Sharapova serve to break down as Bartoli hopped around on the baseline, she did serve a double fault, but she was able to close out the match and set up a meeting with Victoria Azarenka.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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