INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Top seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and 15th-seeded Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli advanced smoothly to the final of the Indian Wells WTA tournament with commanding victories on Friday.
Runner-up here last year, Wozniacki outslugged Russian Maria Sharapova from the baseline 6-1 6-2 after Bartoli had shrugged off the lingering effects of a stomach bug with a 6-1 6-3 demolition of Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.
World number one Wozniacki, making very few mistakes against a harder hitting opponent in their evening encounter, broke an error-prone Sharapova three times in each set to triumph in 80 minutes at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
“Definitely didn’t expect such a score, but I’m very pleased about the way I played and the way I got my tactics to work,” the 20-year-old Dane told reporters after reaching her third consecutive WTA final this year.
“It was very important for me to play good defense today, because Maria is hitting the ball hard. It was important to keep depth to my shots and make her move.”
Sharapova, champion here in 2006 but playing her first tournament in five weeks after suffering a viral infection, was frustrated after a “really flat” performance.
“I just didn’t have a spark,” said the 23-year-old Russian, who served up eight double faults. “She played solid.
“I didn’t take care of the short balls when I had the chance and let her get back in the points. There was not a lot of energy from my side.”
Bartoli, at 26 the oldest player left in the draw, broke a listless Wickmayer five times in dazzling afternoon sunshine to claim a lopsided victory in 85 minutes.
The Frenchwoman squealed in delight after hitting a backhand winner down the line to beat her 23rd-seeded opponent for a third time in three meetings.
“I’m very excited to be in the final,” Bartoli, runner-up at Wimbledon in 2007, said after ending a run of seven successive defeats in the last four of WTA events.
“It was just a matter of time. I had everything in my game to be there, but it was just a matter of putting everything together at the right time and being tough on the court.”
The Frenchwoman, who fired 10 aces and won 83 percent of her first serve points against Wickmayer, has not appeared in a WTA final since she won the biggest title of her career in Stanford in 2009.
“And knowing I could be there, like I did in the final of Wimbledon, helped me mentally to really stay positive, even when I had some bad results, and to really stay focused,” Bartoli said.
The Frenchwoman was still battling the stomach bug that had sapped her energy during the quarter-finals where she beat 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-4 7-6.
“Today was better, but still definitely not 100 percent,” Bartoli said. “My level dropped after the first set because I am still not able to fully eat normally before the match, so I didn’t have many fuels in my body to hang on.
“But I stayed mentally very focused and I stayed positive toward the end. I knew if I was playing not 100 percent but at a good level, I will still be able to come out on top.
Bartoli broke Wickmayer three times to breeze through the first set in 27 minutes, losing just four points on her serve and converting three of seven breakpoint opportunities.
She double-faulted four times in a marathon game to start the second set, gifting Wickmayer the break, but immediately got back on serve before breaking the Belgian in the fifth to take a commanding 5-3 lead.
Serving for the match, Bartoli came from 0-40 down to book her place in Sunday’s final.
Editing by Alastair Himmer