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Indian Wells - Women's semifinals - Predictions

We’re down to the final four at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, and while the absence of top two ranked women, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, has taken off some of the sheen of this so-called ‘fifth major’, there’s plenty to play for the women left standing in the draw. Here’s our preview of the women’s semi-finals.

(2) Maria Sharapova vs. (13) Maria Kirilenko – Head-to-head Sharapova leads 4-2

Sharapova must be the one person relieved not to have to deal with Serena or Azarenka in the draw. The Russian has lost often in recent times to both those two, and with them out, Sharapova could regain some confidence that comes with winning a big title. And if she needed more incentive, a win in the semi-finals will move her ahead of Azarenka to No. 2 in the world rankings next week. Sharapova’s playing only her third event of the season, losing in the semi-finals in Melbourne to Serena and in Doha to Li Na. The Russian has not dropped a set all week, but did struggle in her previous round against the Italian Sara Errani.

Her opponent in Friday’s semi-finals is countrywoman Maria Kirilenko. The other Maria in the draw has been around on the tour for a long time now, but this is the first time she has advanced this far in a major event. Kirilenko does not play with the power of Sharapova, but she does have variety and is able to mix up the play by attacking the net. Ranked No. 15 in the world, this is the first time in her career that Kirilenko has beaten two top 10 players in the same event – and both those players have been in good form – the fourth ranked Agnieszka Radwanska and the seventh ranked Petra Kvitova.

Sharapova has won their last two matches – one of them a tight three setter in the quarter finals right here in Indian Wells last year. Kirilenko should give her trouble, but Sharapova should be able to come through this and reach the finals.

Prediction – Sharapova to win in three sets

(4) Angelique Kerber vs. (8) Caroline Wozniacki – Head-to-head Kerber leads 3-2

After a few weeks in the doldrums, Germany’s Angelique Kerber has built some momentum in Indian Wells by reaching the last four. Kerber came into this event having lost her first round matches in Doha and Dubai, sending the sophomore slump theories into overdrive. For all the matches she won on the tour last year, if the German reaches the finals here – it will be the best showing in one of the big events on the tour. That speaks volumes on her consistency of getting into the latter stages of the important events and her ability to win the not-so-important ones. With Serena and Azarenka both out, this could be the German’s chance of adding a big title to her resume. Kerber has not dropped a set all week, and received a walkover when Samantha Stosur withdrew before their quarter-final due to a right calf injury.

Her next opponent, the former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, also was the beneficiary of a withdrawal in her quarter-final – from the top seeded Azarenka due to an ankle injury. Wozniacki is trying to build some momentum of her own. Having dropped to No. 11 in the rankings last year, the Dane is once again beginning to win matches that she should win. That should help her get back to the top eight at least. She reached the quarters in Doha and the semis in Dubai, losing to Radwanska and Kivotva respectively before a first round loss in Kuala Lampur, where she was hampered by illness.

Kerber and Wozniacki both play a similar counter-punching style. And this is going to be a battle of attrition. Kerber has won their last three matches – all coming in 2012 – but Wozniacki’s big match experience should help her on Friday.

Prediction – Wozniacki to win in three sets.

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