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.
Follow live: Stroud, Ohio State seek to extend series win streak vs. rival Michigan
Sources: Flu outbreak hits Sparty ahead of PSU
No. 12 Michigan State is battling a flu outbreak ahead of its regular-season finale against Penn State, sources told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, with some players likely to try to play through symptoms.
Sources: M's getting All-Star Frazier from Padres
The Mariners are trading for All-Star second baseman/outfielder Adam Frazier in a deal with the Padres, sources told ESPN's Jeff Passan.
Dariush, Makhachev agree to UFC clash in Feb.
UFC lightweights Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev have agreed to meet in a 155-pound, five-round contest on Feb. 26.
Duke picks up ailing Banchero, tops No. 1 Zags
Duke got just one point from Paolo Banchero in the second half, but showcased its depth to earn a signature win over No. 1 Gonzaga on Friday night.
Panarin fined $5K for throwing glove at Marchand
New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin has been fined $5,000 for throwing one of his gloves at Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand.
LeBron fined for gesture, warned on profanity use
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was fined $15,000 for making an obscene gesture in Wednesday night's win over the Pacers.
Red Sox agree to 1-year deal with RHP Wacha
Right-hander Michael Wacha has agreed to a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox, the team announced Saturday.
Sources: Mets land Marte for 4 years, add depth
Starling Marte agreed to a four-year, $78M deal, Eduardo Escobar agreed to a 2-year, $20M deal while Mark Canha is nearing a deal for two years and $26.5M with a third-year option.
What we learned from Friday's elite-level college basketball showcase
Duke took down No. 1 Gonzaga in a championship-caliber top-5 matchup in Las Vegas on Friday night.
Week 12's biggest questions: NFL reporters give advice
What should we expect from Saquon Barkley? In Derrick Henry's continued absence, is there an RB1 in Tennessee? Our reporters weigh in.
What to know for NFL Week 12: Score picks, bold predictions, fantasy tips, key stats and more
What to watch for in every game. Bold predictions. Fantasy advice. Key stats to know. And, of course, final score picks. It's all here for Week 12.
From Mac Jones to Zach Wilson, inside the success and growing pains of the 10 NFL rookie QBs
Jones has the Patriots on a roll while some other rookie QBs are struggling. NFL Nation assesses all 10 first-year signal callers, and looks at what's ahead.
'Not going to lie, I just wanted to spank you': How Brooks routed Bryson
Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau finally took their feud to the golf course. It didn't go well for DeChambeau.
Millions lost, lawsuits everywhere and eight date changes: How a typical title defense for Teofimo Lopez went sideways
COVID, scheduling conflicts and financial quarrels were just a few of the elements that worked to delay Saturday's lightweight title fight.
George Kambosos Jr. ready to 'shock the world' in fight with Teofimo Lopez
Kambosos said his focus has never wavered despite a drama-filled journey to a world title fight.
Kyle Kuzma's unique pregame outfits have been on full display
The Washington Wizards' star's memorable week in fashion started with a now-iconic oversized pink sweater and ended with a puffy coat.
Violent dust storms and 135 miles: Inside the world's most impossible run
Kelaine Conochan ran through desert and darkness, from below sea level through three mountain ranges, in temperatures north of 100 degrees. She ate pickles and guzzled Coke. But this journey wasn't about toughness.
What the numbers say about an 11-2 Alabama and its College Football Playoff chances
College football's biggest question might not be what to do with Cincinnati but what to do with an 11-2 Alabama team.
NFL betting nuggets: Hottest favorite meets best underdog
Notes and trends heading into the biggest games of the weekend.
Survey says ... Seager to the Yanks? The Tigers all-in? MLB execs, insiders weigh in
We asked team officials to predict this winter's biggest free-agent signings, trades and more.
Real Madrid vs. Sevilla a salve for LaLiga's struggles in the UEFA Champions League
It's not looking good for Spanish football in the Champions League, and there are many reasons for it, but it might be OK in the end.
Conference semifinals preview and predictions
We break down and predict all four of this week's conference semifinal matchups.
Transfer Talk: Barcelona eye Manchester City trio Sterling, Silva, Torres
Talks over a new deal for Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe at Paris Saint-Germain are "at a stalemate." Transfer Talk is LIVE with the latest.
Mobley, Cunningham, Barnes and an NBA rookie class to be thankful for
This season's crop of NBA rookies is so strong, it has flipped conventional wisdom on its head in fantasy leagues. John Cregan explains, then details the five rookies he's most thankful for.