Third seeded Maria Sharapova advanced into the quarterfinals of the 2012 US Open with a three sets victory over Nadia Petrova, prevailing 6-1 4-6 6-4.
Sharapova had strolled into the fourth round of the US Open, losing a mere seven games in three matches. She had shown no ill-effects of the stomach virus that led her to pull out of events in Montreal and Cincinnati, and had been serving imperiously.
Nadia Petrova has been ranked as high as 3 in the world, but in recent years has struggled to make a major impact in high-profile tournaments. Nevertheless, she remains an excellent player, experienced and talented enough to cause frequent headaches for the game’s elite players.
On Sunday night, the two produced a fantastic display of aggressive hitting, defensive scrambling and fiery fist-pumping as they went toe-to-toe for a place in the quarter-finals. Sharapova charged through the first set, serving so well that her fellow Russian didn’t earn a single break point. Although there were several long rallies, the number three seed wrapped it up for the loss of only one game.
The second set signalled a momentum shift, however, and Petrova raced into a 4-0 lead. With Sharapova’s error tally mounting, it looked as though the match was definitely heading to a decider. But the French Open champion had other ideas, and swung the pendulum once more, winning the next four games. At 4-4, it looked as though Petrova had lost her best chance to take the match to a third set.
Not so. Petrova held serve, and then won ten points in a row to go 2-0 up in the final set. In a match already full of drama and gear changes, a rain delay then forced the players off the court for an hour.
This was the decisive turning point. Sharapova, pumped, determined and eager, returned to the court after a stern talking-to form her coach Thomas Hogstedt. She reduced her error count while simultaneously producing more winners, including a well-timed, if fortunate, lob at 3-all, securing the vital break of serve. She then held to close out the victory, maintaining her perfect 11-0 record in three-set matches this season.
In the quarter-finals, Sharapova will face Marion Bartoli, a surprise winner over Petra Kvitova. Sharapova has never lost to the Frenchwoman, and will be confident of reaching the US Open semi-finals for the first time since 2006, the year she won the tournament.
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