Maria Sharapova Looking like a Title Threat Again: A Fan's Opinion

Yahoo Contributor Network

Maria Sharapova has mastered the art of coming out strong following a rain delay. Sharapova has won consecutive matches punctuated by rain delays to reach the semifinals of the 2012 U.S. Open.

If she rises up and claims her second singles title at a Grand Slam this season, Sharapova can point to her ability to regroup after a rain delay as a catalyst for getting her to the top. In each of her last two matches, the story has turned out the same. She came out with greater energy and fire after wet weather suspended the match until the next day.

Her quarterfinal match against France's Marion Bartoli offers ample evidence of this trend. Sharapova trailed the 11th seeded Bartoli 4-0 in the first set on Tuesday afternoon when a rain delay pushed the conclusion of the match back to Wednesday morning.

Bartoli started out on fire in the first set. She won 12 of the first 15 points and made Sharapova look a step slow. Sharapova could not figure out how to combat the groundstrokes her smaller French opponent unleashed on her.

When she came back out after a night's rest to resume the match, it became obvious Sharapova had regained her mental focus. She played with a fire she did not have on Tuesday. Bartoli managed to finish out the first set in her favor. Then the tide turned back to Sharapova in the second set and she claimed a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Sharapova recorded 10 aces and pressured Bartoli into making several mistakes in the final two games of the third set. She moved to 12-0 in three-set matches this year. That includes a comeback victory against Nadia Petrova. Sharapova's match against Petrova had an hour long rain delay in the third set that gave her a chance to rally when play resumed.

Bartoli also did not help her cause by struggling on her service games in the second and third sets. The decisive break came in the third set, tied 4-4, when Bartoli could not return the deep volleys Sharapova sent her way.

The biggest challenge for Sharapova still lies ahead. Her semifinal opponent is no. 1 ranked Victoria Azarenka and she will need more than a timely rain delay to punch a ticket to the women's singles final against Azarenka. Her punishing groundstrokes and high energy will only go so far if she doesn't find a way to improve her serve when she takes the court against Azarenka.

Still, Sharapova is in a position to potentially claim her fifth career title at a Grand Slam. It would offer an exclamation point on what has already been a stellar comeback season.

John Coon has covered tennis at all levels as a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. Coon was raised in a tennis loving family. All three of his sisters played competitively and he enjoys playing at a recreational level.

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