In the best women’s match of the tournament so far, Caroline Wozniacki fought back with drives and moon balls and everything else she could think of to disrupt a determined opponent as she upset Angelique Kerber, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, in the semifinal of the BNP Paribas Open.
On Sunday, Wozniacki, who won this title in 2011, will play another former winner in Indian Wells, Maria Sharapova, who overcame her childhood rival, Maria Kirilenko, 6-4, 6-3.
It took Wozniacki 2 hours, 30 minutes to get the better of her hard-running German opponent who was seeded four places above the Dane at No. 4. The first set was messy with too many errors from both sides of the net but the tempo and quality of the contest improved dramatically and reached its peak in a tremendous battle for the seventh game of the second set.
There were 11 deuces as Kerber tried desperately to hold on to her serve but she was having to deal with an increasingly confident opponent who messed up her rhythm by suddenly switching to lofted moon balls.
“I was just trying to figure out a way to win,” Wozniacki said afterward. “It doesn’t really matter how, you know. It’s just important to win the points basically. I got some nice points out of it and I felt like I could go from defense to offense that way, as well.”
Wozniacki acknowledged the importance HawkEye had on the outcome of that pivotal game at 3-3. “It was good there was HawkEye because I think I would have lost that game otherwise. There was a ball down the line that was called out (on game point). It was nice that I could challenge and get it back to deuce.”
Known almost exclusively as a baseline grinder during her tenure as world No. 1 in 2010-2011, Wozniacki is trying to become more aggressive now. It was this willingness to attack and moon ball that enabled her to get the better of her left-handed opponent who kept digging out the most amazing retrieve balls on her backhand side.
So Wozniacki’s reunion with her boyfriend, golfer Rory McIlroy, who is waiting for her in Miami, will have to be put on hold. He has already tweeted that he is proud of her and will no doubt be glued to the television come Sunday afternoon.
“I went into this match believing I could beat everybody,” Caroline said. “So, you know, one more match to go.”
Sharapova was in excellent form as she outhit Kirilenko in the last match of another warm desert evening. The pair have been playing since they were 15 and, as the taller Maria said afterward, “there are no secrets between us.”
Sharapova added, “I just tried to be aggressive, change it up and try and keep her off-balance. For me, being aggressive is always the key.”