Wimbeldon, England Amelie Mauresmo could sense another Wimbledon semifinal slipping away with each of Maria Sharapova's piercing shrieks and powerful shots.
And then, slightly out of character, Mauresmo won a key point and let out a scream of her own, a bit of a bellow to release the tension.
It sure worked.
The top-seeded Mauresmo gave away a big lead Thursday before collecting herself to pull out a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over 2004 Wimbledon champion Sharapova and reach her first final at the All England Club.
"It was not perfect," said Mauresmo, who entered the day 0-3 in Wimbledon semifinals, "but it still was a win."
Her opponent Saturday will be No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne, who overcame problems with her serve and trademark backhand to beat No. 2 Kim Clijsters, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
"I don't have anything to prove to anyone anymore," said Henin-Hardenne, trying to become the first woman in the Open era to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back without dropping a set at either.
"I proved enough on the tennis court: the fighter I am, how much I can compete."
Mauresmo's always had an easier time with the physical demands of top-level tennis than the mental demands, and she appeared to be collapsing Thursday. Up a set and leading 3-1 in the second, the Frenchwoman got to love-40 on Sharapova's serve: That meant three chances to go up 4-1.
But after Sharapova erased one break point with a swinging forehand volley, Mauresmo made consecutive forehand errors to let the occasion slip. And then it got worse: Mauresmo double-faulted twice in each of her next two service games, part of a five-game run that handed Sharapova the set.
"Maybe," Mauresmo acknowledged, "I was thinking too much."
Late in the troublesome second set, she saved a break point with a service winner and responded with that cathartic yell of celebration, at least as loud as the grunts that accompany so many of Sharapova's groundstrokes.
"I probably felt I needed to let it go, let it out a little bit," Mauresmo said. "I just felt that I needed to do that at that moment of the match. Didn't help me win the second set, but maybe helped me a little bit in that third."
Mixing speeds and tapping back returns, Mauresmo broke for a 2-0 lead in the final set, and soon it was 4-0. Still, Mauresmo had one last rough patch.
Sharapova got to 4-2, then earned a break point that would have made it 4-3. But Mauresmo gathered herself and drilled an ace at 112 mph, then broke in the next game to end the 2-hour, 13-minute match.
Rafael Nadal is a two-time French Open champion who's quite quickly become adept on grass, reaching his first Wimbledon semifinal by eliminating No. 22 Jarkko Neiminen 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in a postponed quarterfinal Thursday. Nadal plays Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis today, while three-time champion Roger Federer faces unseeded Jonas Bjorkman for a spot in Sunday's final.