NEW YORK • Second seed Simona Halep, cheered on by Romanian gymnastics great Nadia Comaneci, landed in her first US Open semi-finals with some help from the elements.
On Wednesday, the rain sent Halep and Victoria Azarenka back to the locker room during the third set of their quarter-final.
About two hours later, after the sun had returned and the match was over 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, Halep said: "Thanks, God, for raining."
The world No. 2 said that in the first set she was playing her best tennis, but in the second, she played further behind the baseline and ceded control of the match to Azarenka.
"Everything was negative in my head," she said. "The rain delay was perfect for me. It was unbelievable that I had another chance."
She spoke to her coach, Darren Cahill, and focused on returning to her first-set game plan.
When play resumed, with Halep serving at 40-15 and 1-2 of the third set, she hit an ace down the middle. It marked the return of her aggression. She broke the two-time Australian Open champion for the sixth time in the match at 3-3 and held on to win.
Before the rain came, Flavia Pennetta and Petra Kvitova were more worried about the sun and the scorching conditions it brought.
Kvitova, who was found to have mononucleosis this summer, has been limiting her practice time during the tournament. She has also limited her time in matches by not losing a set.
Against Pennetta, the fifth seed played for nearly an hour longer than in any of her previous matches. She began to wither and fell 6-4, 4-6, 2-6.
"I'm going back to make some blood tests, to see how everything is looking right now," said the two-time Wimbledon champion, who missed six weeks this year with exhaustion. "Now I'm feeling really exhausted."
For the 33-year-old Pennetta, the result defied the odds, rankings and age. The world No. 26's reward is a clash with Halep this morning (Singapore time) as she joined compatriot Roberta Vinci, 32, in the last four.
They are the first two Italian women in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals of any Grand Slam.
"I mean, of course we are a little bit old for the age of tennis right now," said Pennetta, who has a 3-1 career edge in matches against Halep, 23. "But we are here. We still fight."
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS