Simona Halep sets up US Open semi-final clash with Flavia Pennetta

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Simona Halep was grateful for a gift from the sky as a rain delay helped the Romanian beat Victoria Azarenka to reach the US Open semi-finals.

Halep won the first set but lost the second before trailing 2-1 in the decider when the heavens opened and play was suspended for just over an hour.

The world number two seemed to benefit from the break as she returned rejuvenated, winning five of the next seven games to clinch a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory.


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"It was an amazing match," Halep said.

"She played fantastic but in the first set I played my best tennis and I knew I have the game to win.

"But I know also that she's very strong and she doesn't give up during the matches. She was dominating me in the second set.

"Everything was negative in my head - the rain delay was perfect for me.

"It was unbelievable that I had another chance. I said in the gym with my coach, I spoke and I said that I have another chance.

"So I had to go just to do everything I did in first set and to get this one, because it was made for me."

It means Halep will play her first ever semi-final at Flushing Meadows and only her third in major tournaments as she bounced back from losses in the second round at the French Open and first round at Wimbledon this year.

She now meets Italian Flavia Pennetta, who registered a surprise 4-6 6-4 6-2 win over fifth seed Petra Kvitova.

"After Wimbledon I said that the year is finished for me. I cannot win a match," Halep said.

"I took the pressure off myself. I was going home, relaxing. I didn't touch a racquet for almost four weeks.

"I wanted just to forget about tennis, about official matches. I just wanted to come back with the pleasure on court, that's why I played mixed doubles here.

"After I lost in Wimbledon, I said that that's the worst thing. It cannot be worse than losing in the first round in a grand slam.

"So that's why I changed my mind now and I feel much more relaxed."

Halep raised eyebrows at the final in Cincinnati last month when she lost to Serena Williams and then said she hoped the American would win the US Open to complete the calendar grand slam.

She soon clarified she would support Williams only if she was not in the final - a potential scenario from which the 2014 French Open finalist is only one win away.

"If I play the final here against Serena, it would be like a record to play two times against her in one month," Halep said.

"I have nothing to lose. Even tomorrow it's like a big challenge and will be a big bonus for me to get to the finals here.

"I didn't expect this when I came but I knew that I have a chance."

Pennetta has made the quarter-finals six times in seven attempts in New York and the 33-year-old also reached the last four here in 2013.

That run two years ago included a straight-sets win over Halep in the fourth round but it was the Romanian who came out on top when they last met at Miami in March.

"She's really consistent," Pennetta said of her next opponent.

"She didn't play really well at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, but I think for different things, not about tennis. Maybe she had too much pressure outside the court.

"She had two months where she was a little bit like scared but now she's back in the same way she started the beginning of the year - focused and with a lot of the determination."

Pennetta's compatriot Roberta Vinci is already through, meaning two Italian women have made the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time in the Open era.

Vinci plays Williams in the other semi-final, with both matches to be played on Thursday.

US Open Tennis
Victoria Azarenka

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