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Maria looks to conquer Indian Wells yet again

We have finally arrived at the final day of what has been an eventful Indian Wells tournament so far. From tremors to plethora of upsets to withdrawals – the 2013 edition of the tournament dubbed as the ‘Fifth Major’ has seen it all. Nevertheless, we have been presented with the prospect of a mouthwatering ladies final as two former champions – Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki square off against each other to get one more chance at adding another crown in the Coachella Valley.

Maria Sharapova of Russia acknowledges the crowd after defeating compatriot Maria Kirilenko on March 15, 2013 in Indian Wells, California, in their semirfinal match at the BNP Paribas Open. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN        (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Maria Sharapova of Russia acknowledges the crowd after defeating compatriot Maria Kirilenko on March 15, 2013 in Indian Wells, California, in their semifinal at the BNP Paribas Open. (Getty Images)

Maria Sharapova – Reigning French Open champion Maria Sharapova has extra motivation going into the summit clash. Her 2013 final appearance, which will be her third appearance overall at Indian Wells will see her regain her No. 2 ranking when the next world rankings are announced.

Tennis’ uber glam girl Sharapova who has limited her schedule to just three tournaments so far this year is determined to reverse her 2012 result. With her nemeses Serena Williams skipping this prestigious tournament and defending champion Victoria Azarenka being forced to pull out with an ankle injury, the Russian definitely has a shot to glory.

The 2006 Indian Wells winner has surely been making a huge statement with her performance as she is yet to drop a set en route to the final. Even though she did struggle with her serve and groundstrokes against World No. 8 Sara Errani in the quarter-finals, Maria stamped her authority in the semi-finals. Winning 83 per cent of her first serve points and saving all six break points she faced, Sharapova never gave the talented Maria Kirilenko a chance to settle down.

Caroline Wozniacki – It’s a return to the Indian Wells final for the 2011 champion and much like her opponent Sharapova, this is the third trip to the final for the Dane. But what is sure to boost her confidence is the fact that this is the biggest final she has reached since relinquishing her numero uno ranking a year back.

It’s been a struggle for the past twelve months for Miss Sunshine as her performances fluctuated from the latter stages of a tournament to even first round exits. Caroline’s colourless performances also coincided with superb displays from her peers, Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska whom she used to defeat with consummate ease a couple of years back. Hiring different coaches failed to give her the desired results and she is once again now under the tutelage of her father, Piotr.

Naturally a final showing should speak volumes of the Dane’s focus and patience. Wozniacki who looks slimmer and fitter now had made the bold decision last year of dropping her string tension by 15 pounds to be able to get more pace for her shots. Certainly all that is proving effective on the slow hardcourts of Indian wells as she has consistently been hitting winners. With 25 winners, it’s a more aggressive version of the Dane now who edged past Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals.

Head-to-head and match-up – Sharapova leads the head-to-head record 4-2, their last encounter being at Miami a year ago where Sharapova prevailed in three sets. Their only meeting in Indian Wells happened a couple of years back where Wozniacki completely thrashed Sharapova.

But the Russian had come far from her 2011 days. She is now back in the top echelon of the world rankings and has even completed her Career Slam. If Sharapova can get her first serves going and her deep, penetrating forehands working she can be one dangerous opponent to handle.

Wozniacki, on the other hand, will always try to give one extra ball back to Sharapova and will definitely exploit her sometimes sloppy movement. Having to play one match less than the Russian, courtesy of Azarenka’s withdrawal, she is fresher of the two. With a variety of lobs, moonballs and dropshots coming from the Dane, Sharapova will surely be tested. But the Russian’s power, precision and her hunger will pull her through in the end.

My Prediction: Sharapova in three sets.

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