California - 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
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
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
"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."
Results on Friday from the 10th day of the ATP Masters and WTA BNP Paribas Open (x denotes seeded player):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x8) 6-3, 6-1
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG x7) bt Andy Murray (GBR x3) 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-1
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x8) bt Angelique Kerber (GER x4) 2-6, 6-4, 7-5
Maria Sharapova (RUS x2) bt Maria Kirilenko (RUS X13) 6-4, 6-3