Wozniacki seeks 'check mate' in final against Sharapova

Saturday, March 16, 2013 - 1:11pm

It will be former world No. 1 against former world No. 1 when Maria Sharapova lines up against Caroline Wozniacki in the women's final at Indian Wells on Sunday -- a tale of two careers that have headed in opposite directions.

While Sharapova completed her recovery from longterm injury problems by completing her collection of grand slam titles at last year's French Open, Wozniacki is still waiting for her first major crown as she battles to remain among the game's top 10.

Sharapova returned to second in the rankings following Friday's 6-4 6-3 semifinal victory over fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, as another former No. 1 -- defending champion Victoria Azarenka -- slipped down after pulling out of her quarterfinal clash with Wozniacki due to an ankle injury.

The Dane, meanwhile, battled into her third final in four years at the Californian hard-court tournament as she came from behind to overcome German fourth seed Angelique Kerber 2-6 6-4 7-5.

"Maria is a great competitor and fights for every point," Wozniacki said of her next opponent, who she thrashed in the 2011 semis on the way to winning the title.

"She plays very aggressively and tries to take every ball on the rise and plays very flat -- it's going to be very tough."

Sharapova, who won the desert event in 2006 and was runnerup last year, has a 4-2 advantage over the world No. 10 and won both their encounters after that Indian Wells defeat.

"Caroline is dangerous when she has the opportunities to open up the court and runs you side to side," said the 25-year-old, who will be seeking her 28th WTA title while Wozniacki aims for a 21st.

The 22-year-old will try to stifle Sharapova's power game on a surface that suits her patient baseline approach.

"I really enjoy this tournament -- I think it shows," Wozniacki said. "I think the court suits me very well. I like that it goes fast through the air but it's a pretty slow court.

"It's a game of chess out there -- if you play it here, you expect it here. 'Wait, is it short? Okay, go in and attack. Is it deep? You need to play deep back because you don't want her to attack.'

"It's a game of finding out where is the toughest for the opponent to get to the ball."

In the men's tournament, Rafael Nadal will continue his comeback in the first of Saturday's semifinals when he takes on sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych.

The winner of that match will play either world No. 1 Novak Djokovic or Juan Martin del Potro, who eliminated third-ranked Andy Murray on Friday.

Del Potro beat Djokovic in the bronze medal match at the London 2012 Olympics but has since lost four times to Serbia's Australian Open champion, who is unbeaten this year following his 6-3 6-1 win over French eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

"I need to play better," the Argentine said of his prospects against Djokovic, who has now won 22 matches since losing in the second round at the Paris Masters in late October.

Murray could have reached second in the rankings above defending champion Roger Federer -- who lost to Nadal -- if he had made it to the final.

"I had some chances in the second set, didn't manage to get them. I could've served better and returned better -- two pretty important parts of the game," the Scot said after his error-strewn 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-1 defeat.

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