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One small step; one giant moonball for Wozniacki

Tennis players use different weapons to win. It could be their serve, their groundstrokes, their court coverage or perhaps their fitness. On Friday evening in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, former world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki used another weapon to defeat the fourth seed Angelique Kerber in three sets and advance to her third final at this event in the past four years.

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark gestures while celebrating her three-set victory over Angelique Kerber of Germany on March 15, 2013 in Indian Wells, California, during their semirfinal match at the BNP Paribas Open. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN        (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Caroline Wozniacki celebrates her three-set victory over Angelique Kerber on March 15, 2013 in Indian Wells, California, during their semifinal match at the BNP Paribas Open. (Getty Images)

The women’s tour has often been criticized for the abundance of mindless baseline bashers – where most players pull the trigger too early in a rush for winners. But on Friday, Wozniacki effectively deployed the moonball – that slow off-pace shot hit high above the opponent’s shoulder – as her weapon of choice.

Both Kerber and Wozniacki are known to use the pace of their opponents effectively but have problems creating their own pace in rallies. And both are known to be counterpunchers with an ability to stay on court for hours. The use of moonballs has divided tennis purists – some consider it a tactic used only in the juniors and to throw off your opponent’s game. Others consider it acceptable – anything to win is acceptable. The match sent Twitterverse into overdrive as well. The Dane was mocked at initially for using the tactic early on in the match, by the time it ended and Wozniacki came through a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 winner in two and a half hours, several tennis pundits applauded Wozniacki for her ability to come through the match using the moonballs strategy.

In case you missed the match on television, here’s a look at some of the best tweets about the match:

Beyond The Baseline‏@SI_BTBaseline – Wow. Caroline Wozniacki cracks a forehand moon ball that actually forces Kerber to hit an overhead from 5 feet beyond the baseline

Ben Rothenberg‏@BenRothenberg – Wozniacki hits mother of all moonballs, and Kerber is forced into an overhead from way behind baseline. THAT was Piotr’s strategy? #bnppo13

Ben Rothenberg‏@BenRothenberg – Now they’re both moonballing. This is *spectacular*. #bnppo13

Ben Rothenberg‏@BenRothenberg – One small step for tennis, one giant leap for Caroline Wozniacki. Moonballs to a break, cuts lead to 2-4. #bnppo13

Beyond The Baseline‏@SI_BTBaseline – With the help of a horrid Kerber overhead shank and some classic moonballing, Woz gets one break back. 2-4. #BNPPO13

10sworld.com‏@10sworld – Wozniacki harnesses the power of the moonball to get a break back, but then can’t consolidate. Kerber serving for the set at 5-2. #bnppo13

Beyond The Baseline‏@SI_BTBaseline – Make fun of the moonballs all you want but Wozniacki has broken back to even the set at 2-2. Not a fun watch. #BNPPO13

Matt Cronin‏@TennisReporters – Caro just pulled out a page from her Warsaw 12 & Under marathon victory over Kerber: a double moonball & drop shot winner combo

Ben Rothenberg‏@BenRothenberg – Wozniacki shooting the moon, you could say. Three straight games to go up 3-2 in the second set. #bnppo13

Alina Jidkova‏@AlinaJidkova – I guess “moon balls” still exist in tennis:)

Caroline Wozniacki (R) of Denmark and Angelique Kerber (L) of Germany meet at the net on March 15, 2013 in Indian Wells, California, following Wozniacki's three-set victory in their semirfinal match at the BNP Paribas Open. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN        (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Moonballing it: Wozniacki and Kerber (L) rolled back the years at Indian Wells. (Getty Images)

Stephanie Myles‏@exposbabe – Woz and Kerber are setting tennis back 30 years at times. But doing what they have to do to win, which is kind of the objective #props

Ben Rothenberg‏@BenRothenberg – The moonball-netrush combination I actually don’t mind–it’s a smart way to approach against a lot of players, and in Tennis Elbow. #bnppo13

Matt Cronin‏@TennisReporters – Good 2 see Wozniacki attacking net but has much to learn about when to go in & needs to improve. Should play dubs. Would help

Beyond The Baseline‏@SI_BTBaseline – Well-earned hold for Wozniacki to 4-3. Great shot-making and initiative from her. Didn’t always work, but the intention is spot on. #BNPPO13

Stephanie Myles‏@exposbabe – @dougrobson it’s part of a rather intriguing overall package tonight. Too bad so many ppl don’t understand the game at all

Beyond The Baseline‏@SI_BTBaseline – I don’t think a crowd is supposed to burst out laughing four times during a rally. But there you go. #moonballs4EVA. #BNPPO13

Beyond The Baseline‏@SI_BTBaseline – The WTA needs to buy the video rights to that rally to ensure it never gets released to the public again. #BNPPO13

Matt Cronin‏@TennisReporters – At 3-1, 30-30 in 3rd, Caro & Kerber threw up more moonballs in 1 rally than I have seen in past 20 years. Thought Jaeger was still in NY?

Brad Gilbert‏@bgtennisnation – Can not remember the last time I saw so many moon balls interesting to see it used

Eggy‏@TheBoiledEgg – I’m amazed I haven’t fallen asleep over that rally.

Stephanie Myles‏@exposbabe – Unfortunate what most ppl will harp on with this match is moonballs.Forgotten will be quality of the chess match and Woz’s  aggressiveness

Douglas Robson‏@dougrobson – The peanut gallery dislikes off pace/moon balls, but I don’t remember reading anywhere that it’s illegal. Junk ball is part of the sport.

Simon Cambers‏@scambers73 – Moon-balling may not be pretty but it is certainly effective if used right. The moon-ball, net-sneak, volley, I like….

Douglas Robson‏@dougrobson – Juniors stop moonballing for one reason: it’s ineffective. Better players solve it. But if it worked, they would not stop.

Ben Rothenberg‏@BenRothenberg – From down 1-4, Angelique Kerber has fought back to level the third set at 5-5. Tennis improving as the drama builds in this one. #bnppo13

Douglas Robson‏@dougrobson – I understand, I really do. I hated playing moonballers. Drove me crazy. Aesthetically unappealing. In the end, it’s about the W, right?

Craig Gabriel‏@crosscourt1 – match point Wozniacki after Kerber moonballed a FH wide

10sworld.com‏@10sworld – GSM Wozniacki, 7-5 in the 3rd. One step for Woz, one giant leap for moonball kind. #bnppo13

Ben Rothenberg‏@BenRothenberg – In a lot of ways that was vintage Woz. Mixes it up, gets a great player off her game, digs out a W. The woman can make sausage

Stephanie Myles‏@exposbabe – Didn’t think I’d enjoy that one, but it was a fascinating chess match and Wozniacki showed some gutsy stuff

Wozniacki is at an interesting crossroads in her career. She has been no. 1 in the world but is yet to win a slam. She has tried hiring different coaches in order to develop her game but has since gone back to father Piotr. She can spend the next couple of years developing bigger weapons and losing more often in the process. Or she can choose to use the weapons she has most effectively and hope that a combination of her hard work, perseverance and luck of the draw will take ride her to a grand slam singles title. With a semifinal showing in Dubai and the finals this week in Indian Wells, the sunshine could be coming back for the Dane – even if it means going using some moonballs.

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