New York: Maria Sharapova advanced to a grudge-match US Open semi-final against top seed Victoria Azarenka while Serena Williams looked to book a trip to the last four for the fourth time in five years.

Russian third seed Sharapova reached the semi-finals for the first time since her 2006 US Open title run by rallying to defeat French 11th seed Marion Bartoli 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that began on Tuesday but was halted by rain.

Sharapova, who improved to 12-0 in three-set matches this year, faces a Friday showdown against World No. 1 Azarenka, a 23-year-old from Belarus who beat Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in last January's Australian Open final.

"Tough challenge," Sharapova said. "She beat me in Australia quite easily and I would love to get my revenge at a Grand Slam."

Azarenka, who ousted defending champion Samantha Stosur of Australia on Tuesday, leads the all-time rivalry with Sharapova 5-4, including a victory in March's Indian Wells final and a loss in April's Stuttgart final on clay.

"It's always tough to lose in that final stage of a Grand Slam," Sharapova said. "Last time we played was in Stuttgart where I beat her, but before that she got me a couple times.

But that was on clay. This is a different situation.

"So every match is new. She has been playing great tennis. This is a great opportunity for the both of us."

Three-time US Open winner Williams has a pretty solid chance as well as she prepares to face Serbian 12th seed Ana Ivanovic in a later quarter-final. The winner earns a Friday semi-final berth opposite Italian 10th seed Sara Errani.

Errani became the first Italian woman in the Open era to reach the US Open semi-finals with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over 20th-seeded compatriot, doubles partner and best friend Roberta Vinci.

"It's always hard to play against a friend and it was strange seeing her on the other side of the net," said Errani.

"I am happy to get to the semi-final. Can I win the title? I will tell you in three or four days."

Errani lost to Sharapova at this year's French Open final in her best career Grand Slam result. They could meet again for a trophy on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts if both can get past higher-seeded foes.

But first on Sharapova's mind is Azarenka.

"We both play a pretty aggressive game, we're good competitors and we love to win," Sharapova said.

"She has had such a solid year, her breakthrough in terms of winning the Grand Slam, being so solid, so consistent, being No. 1 in the world for the first time."

Sharapova, 25, improved to 5-0 all-time against Bartoli but only after falling behind 4-0 on Tuesday before rain halted the match, postponing the conclusion for a day and giving the Russian time to regroup.

"That rain break gave me a few hours to think about things. I came out so flat and she was on fire," Sharapova said. "Bad four games on Wednesday. The match wasn't over. I had a chance to come out on Thursday and see how things go.

"I'm so happy to get through this one," Sharapova said. "It has been so long since I have been to this stage at the US Open."

Bartoli, 27, settled for her first US Open quarter-final, which gave her a trip to the last eight in every Grand Slam event for her career.

Errani, 25, has four wins this year, all on clay, at Acapulco, Barcelona, Budapest, Palermo. They were her first WTA titles since 2008.

Vinci, 29, reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final in her 32nd Grand Slam appearance. She took her seventh career WTA title last month at Dallas in her final US Open tuneup.


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