Victoria Azarenka gets into a forehand during her semifinal victory at… (Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images )
Not to be outdone by the star quality on the men's side of BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, the women's final Sunday will feature the top two players in the world, the first time that's happened on the WTA Tour since 2008.
No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, 22, of Belarus will play No. 2 Maria Sharapova, 24, of Russia in a match scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Azarenka cruised through a 6-4, 6-3 semifinal victory over Angelique Kerber of Germany on Friday night and is 22-0 this year. She has also made it to the finals of the last six tournaments she has entered, going back to 2011.
One of those tournaments was her current personal highlight, a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Sharapova in the Australian Open final in January. That was Azarenka's first Grand Slam tournament title.
It is also grounds for motivation for Sharapova, who has won three major titles and certainly doesn't look fondly on a Grand Slam final in which she won just three games.
"I'd love to get my revenge from Australia," Sharapova said Friday night after her semifinal victory, in which she led, 6-4, 0-1, when Ana Ivanovic defaulted because of a thigh injury.
"I hope the quality of tennis will be good," Sharapova said, "and hopefully, I can change a few things around."
Ivanovic, who won the French Open in 2008, said she never felt one specific moment of injury, just a progression of pain.
"I started to feel it in the middle of the first set," she said.
Sharapova said she was happy for the win, but added, "I would have loved to finish the match the right way."
Sharapova said she has pondered specific tactics against Azarenka since Australia, and indicated that serving well is among them.
"She's someone, you know, who likes to attack from the first ball, " Sharapova said, "and if you give her too many second serves to look at, she'll obviously gain confidence from that."
Besides winning and losing, an ever-present issue will be at hand for Azarenka and Sharapova, two of the higher-decibel screechers on a tour of women who often hit the tennis ball noisily. Neither cares for the subject, since it has been much-discussed and oft-criticized. Azarenka replied coolly to a question about it Friday night.
"We've addressed that many times before," she said.