Maria Sharapova reached her first final of 2013 on Friday, beating Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 6-3 in a semi-final slugfest to set up a title showdown with Caroline Wozniacki at Indian Wells.
By reaching the final, Sharapova is projected to rise one spot to No. 2 in the world when the new rankings are announced on Monday.
“It’s better than three, right?” said Sharapova, who was more focused on capturing a first title since her 2012 French Open victory gave her a career Grand Slam.
She is playing in only her third tournament of the year. After withdrawing from Brisbane with a right collarbone injury she reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open and Doha.
The Russian lifted the trophy in the California desert in 2006 and was runner-up last year to Victoria Azarenka.
But in Wozniacki, who outlasted fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, she’ll be up against an opponent with an equally strong Indian Wells resume: a title in 2011 and a runner-up finish in 2010.
“She’s always a tough opponent,” Sharapova said of Wozniacki.
“She’s a grinder. She makes you work really hard on the court and gets a lot of balls back.”
Although Sharapova built a 3-1 lead in the opening set, she thought she could have started even stronger against the 15th-seeded Kirilenko, whose triumph at Pattaya City made her the only semi-finalist to have won a title this year.
“I felt like it could have been up 4-0,” Sharapova said, adding that she wanted as much cushion as she could build against a player who had already beaten third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska and fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova en route to the semi-finals.
“She’s had a few comebacks in this tournament and really good results,” Sharapova said.
“So, yeah, I stepped it up in the second set.”
Five of Sharapova’s six aces came in the second frame, and she didn’t face a break point.
“She likes to play those long points,” Sharapova said. “My job was to be a little more aggressive than usual.”
Wozniacki turned the tables on Kerber, who had won their last three meetings, but she had to work two and a half hours to do it.
The match featured 14 breaks of serve – seven in the third set alone.
“I just took it as it came – I was trying to figure out a way to win,” Wozniacki said. “It doesn’t really matter how.”
Indian Wells 2013 - Maria Sharapova Photoshoot
press image for big size
Maria Sharapova born April 19, 1987) is a Russian professional tennis player. As of February 25, 2013 she is ranked world no. 3.
College Football Playoff tracker: How each conference title game affects the field
The CFP tracker is your one-stop shop for how each result will impact the committee's decision.
How each conference championship game will be won
From the SEC and Big Ten all the way down to Division III, here's your championship weekend preview.
Sources: Cavs open to trade offers for Love
Kevin Love is on the radar of several playoff contenders, and the Cavaliers are open to moving him if they find a requisite package of young assets and/or future draft picks, sources told ESPN.
Ducks won't seek easier opponents in CFP quest
Although an easier nonconference schedule might have helped Oregon's chances of reaching the College Football Playoff, Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said his program won't change its scheduling approach.
CP3 alerts ref to Wolves' violation; Thunder win
A delay of game penalty on the Timberwolves at the end of regulation helped the Thunder stun Minnesota in overtime Friday night in Oklahoma City.
LeBron: 'Always special' to match up with Melo
LeBron James got the better of Carmelo Anthony in the Lakers' 136-113 win over the Blazers on Friday and said afterward that it's "always special to be on the floor with a brother of mine."
Ole Miss finalizing deal with Kiffin, sources say
Lane Kiffin is set to become the fourth Rebels coach in the past 10 seasons.
Blazers 'very sad' as Hood tears Achilles tendon
Trail Blazers swingman Rodney Hood suffered a torn left Achilles tendon in the first quarter Friday night against the visiting Lakers.
Ringside Seat: Can Andy Ruiz repeat or will Anthony Joshua find redemption?
It might not have been the heavyweight dream fight many expected in 2019, but Joshua-Ruiz 2 is the perfect way to end the year.
Insight into Ruiz-Joshua 2, from a man that fought both
Joseph Parker shares his thoughts on the rematch and makes his prediction for the fight.
Man United was supposed to be too big to fail: The inside story on how everything fell apart
Countless mistakes, Â£840m down the drain, four managers and one Ed Woodward: How Manchester United became specialists in failure.
Picks, schedule guide, playoff scenarios and more
What to watch for in every game. Bold predictions. Fantasy advice. Key stats to know. And, of course, score predictions. It's all here for Week 14.
Mookie Betts to the Reds (or White Sox) and more winter meetings trades we want to see
Hoping for a busy week of moves in San Diego? So are we. Here are some deals that would get everyone talking.
UFC Fight Night viewers guide: Rozenstruik has big punch, big plans
Alistair Overeem and Jairzinho Rozenstruik meet in the main event on Saturday in Washington, D.C. Will the showdown be a veteran's last stand or a prospect's springboard?
Lowe: Ten NBA things I like and don't like, including the Rondo-LeBron combo
This week the spotlight hits the hapless Knicks, Luka Doncic's secret weapon, Markelle Fultz's emergence and Rajon Rondo's return to relevance.
Legal fees drive $5.5M rise in USSF 2020 deficit
U.S. Soccer's projected 2020 deficit is set to grow $5.5 million due mostly to expenditures of $9m on legal fees devoted to various lawsuits.
Best of the 2019 women's NCAA soccer tourney
Five future U.S. national team players appeared the last time Stanford and UNC met with an NCAA title on the line. Sunday might be even more star-studded.
How Destinee Walker can help save Notre Dame's season
As a high schooler, Destinee Walker passed on an offer from Notre Dame to sign with UNC. Now the grad transfer has found her way to South Bend.
The next wave of NFL head coaches: Names and trends to know for 2020
Teams could toward offensive-minded coaches like Colts assistant Nick Sirianni in their January searches. Expect at least six jobs to open.
Early predictions for the loaded 2020 NFL QB market: Barnwell on what's next
Bridgewater, Newton, Trubisky, Rivers, Mariota -- all could change teams this offseason. And that's just the start.
NHL experts buy/sell Kessel scoring 30 goals, Bobrovsky buyer's remorse and more
As Phil returns to Pittsburgh, can he turn things up? Are the Panthers regretting their big signing? Will the Rangers make the playoffs?
Wysh List: Coaches punching players is bad!
As the hockey culture shifts, we must ask ourselves some basic questions. Plus, Jersey Fouls and more.
Ronda Rousey-Liz Carmouche: The fight that changed women's MMA
Amanda Nunes and other top female MMA fighters reflect on an event that helped pave the way for their careers.
Matthew Berry's Love/Hate for Week 14
Matthew provides another dose of perspective with the fantasy playoffs set to begin, and also offers his usual lineup advice.
Fantasy football Week 14 rankings
Rankings from Matthew Berry, Field Yates, Mike Clay and more.
Stuart Scott remembered during V Week by his daughters, Taelor and Sydni
Stuart Scott was an ESPN icon, cancer fighter and the inventor of 'boo-yah.' As V Week honors Scott five years after his death, his daughters write about their father's impact and what his legacy means to them.