US Open Tennis 2012: Maria Sharapova Will Advance After Facing Early Deficit

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

Maria Sharapova enters Wednesday's U.S. Open action in an unfavorable position, but she will rebound on her way to a semifinals berth.

Sharapova wasn't playing well against Marion Bartoli before rain forced everyone inside and postponed competition, but there's still reason for hope.

If anything, the rain delay favors the No. 3 seed. It gives her a chance to regroup and bring her best game when she takes the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium Wednesday morning.

Her problems really come down to one thing: first-serve accuracy. She only put 9-of-16 first serves in, while Bartoli landed 9-of-12.

If she can turn that around, everything will be just fine for the world-class player. She's played excellently up until this point, dropping just one set to Nadia Petrova prior to this match.

Sharapova hasn't been Serena Williams-dominant, but she's been dominant. Outside of that flawed set against Petrova in the fourth round, she's been perfect.

Bartoli's unorthodox style seemed to give her trouble in the opening set of their quarterfinal tilt, but now she's tipped her hand. Sharapova knows exactly what to prepare for and precisely what it will take to counter the Italian's attack.

Her early deficit wouldn't tell you, but Sharapova hasn't played that badly. In fact, the positives outweigh the negatives. Unforced errors are at five, but she's come to the net well.

Her power is there, and she left room for optimism.

The rain delay and subsequent postponement was Bartoli's worst nightmare. When you're up 4-0 in the first set on a more talented competitor, you just want to keep playing.

She has to wonder if she can find her rhythm again, while Sharapova stews over her disappointing showing thus far.

Don't expect Bartoli to just roll over, but Sharapova is a proud athlete. She will rally around her mistakes, improve her first-serve accuracy and advance to the semifinals.

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