By Mark Lamport-Stokes
INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Plenty of lobs, subtle changes of pace, marathon baseline rallies - Maria Sharapova is preparing for all of that and more when she faces Caroline Wozniacki in Sunday's final at the BNP Paribas Open.
Denmark's Wozniacki, like Sharapova a former world number one and an ex-champion at Indian Wells, is known for her baseline grit and the variety she draws upon, ingredients which make her a tough opponent.
"She's a grinder," second-seeded Russian Sharapova told reporters about the 22-year-old Dane. "She makes you work really hard on the court and gets a lot of balls back and has a lot of different variety.
"I certainly don't want to give her that time or those opportunities, because she's a really good player. She's dangerous when she has the opportunities to open up court and she wants you running side to side."
Asked how much it could help having played several 'grinders' so far at this year's tournament, Sharapova replied: "I have had to work for all the points here, that's for sure.
"I also feel like, in a way, in a couple of those matches I made my life a little more difficult than I should have been. I was forcing a few of my errors."
Sharapova, champion here in 2006, booked her place in the final with a 6-4 6-3 victory over fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko while eighth seed Wozniacki advanced with a battling 2-6 6-4 7-5 win over fourth-seeded German Angelique Kerber.
TURNED THE TIDE
Wozniacki effectively turned the tide against Kerber with a barrage of accurate lobs, or moonballs, on the slow-paced hardcourt surface at Indian Wells and Sharapova took note.
"I saw some of those points," the 25-year-old Russian smiled. "That was quite interesting.
"They looked like they were really high and they all kept going in. I was like, 'That's a really good effort.' I don't think I can do that."
Asked what adjustments were needed to cope with the "moonball strategy", Sharapova replied: "Usually when your opponent has time to hit higher balls or a little bit of spin, that means you're giving them a bit more time to do that."
Wozniacki, who won the 2011 Indian Wells title with a 6-1 2-6 6-3 victory over Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in the final, trails Sharapova 2-4 in career meetings and knows she will have to contend with the Russian's powerful ground strokes.
"She playing very aggressively, tries to take every ball on the rise and plays very flat," said the Dane, who hopes her comfort level at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where she has reached her third final, will give her a boost on Sunday.
"I really enjoy this tournament. I think it shows. I have done great results here in the past, and this is another very good one. So, one more match to go.
"I feel like I have been running and grinding and playing really well this week. I have reached a lot of balls and felt comfortable. It's a great week so far."
Whatever happens in Sunday's final, world number three and four-times grand slam singles champion Sharapova will rise to two when the rankings are issued on Monday.
"Great. Yeah, it's nice. It's better than three, right?" she beamed.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by John O'Brien)