Last year's BNP Paribas Open runner-up, Maria Sharapova, has once again made it to the final. In yesterday's second semifinal, Sharapova defeated countrywoman Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 6-3. Credit to Kirilenko, who demonstrated why her ranking has improved so much. When she could, she hit hard and aggrssively, and she moved Sharapova from side to side with ease.
It helped Kirilenko's cause that her opponent made a half dozen double faults. But Kirilenko was never able to break. She had six break opportunities. Four of them, Sharapova emphatically saved; Kirilenko wiped out the other two with careless--probably "nerve"-related--errors.
Sharapova hit 29 winners, including a fiery forehand winner on match point. She is now number 2 (again) in the rankings, and Victoria Azarenka has been bumped to number 3. Sharapova's opponent in the final will be 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki.