Indian Wells: Wozniacki d. Kerber

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INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.—There was a sliver of moon high in the sky here this evening. It must have inspired Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber, because they spent a fair amount of their three-set semifinal tonight seemingly trying to send the ball there.

This was one of those little-bit-of-everything WTA quasi-epics, where the play veers from the sublime to the ridiculous and back three or four times, that we seem to see at least once a tournament. There were moonballs; Wozniacki, after losing the first set, began tossing them up early in the second, and Kerber soon joined her in the fun. There were coaching visits, seemingly at every changeover. There were predictably unpredictable momentum swings. Kerber was dominant to start, both more consistent and more penetrating with her shots than Wozniacki. But when Wozniacki got her teeth into the match midway through the second set, she wouldn’t let go. Until she was ahead 4-1 in the third, of course, at which point Kerber came charging back to level it at 5-5, only to go down meekly in the final two games. The final point total was as close to dead even as possible: 101 points for Wozniacki, 100 for Kerber. 

There was also the highlight of the whole two-hour, 31-minute affair: a 17 minute, match-changing game at 3-3 in the second. Wozniacki, who would save seven of 12 break points for the night, survived several near-death experiences in that game, including a line call that was overturned by Hawk-Eye that would have given Kerber the break. Up to that stage, the match had been notable mainly for its moonshots, which at least had the unintended effect of cracking the audience up. But at 3-3, it suddenly turned into an all-court battle, with drops, lobs, long runs, good gets, near misses, grunts of anxious effort, and tension in the stadium. Kerber had the break on her racquet, but Wozniacki stole it away, and with it the match, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.

It was a significant win for Wozniacki. She ended a three-match losing streak to Kerber and reached her first final of 2013. And while her lunar landings can be mocked, she used them to get a hot opponent out of her rhythm, and on a few occasions to sneak into the net and finish rallies. Wozniacki will play her third final in Indian Wells in four years on Sunday, against the winner of the semifinal between Maria Sharapova and Maria Kirilenko. We’ll see if she can send one of them into orbit, too.

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