Maria Sharapova, the world’s number three, is now undoubtedly the main favourite for the title in Indian Wells after the withdrawal of Viktoria Azarenka, but nothing is guaranteed when it comes to tennis and Maria Kirilenko certainly has what it takes to trouble Sharapova today.
Match: Maria Sharapova vs Maria Kirilenko
Selection: Maria Kirilenko
Best Odds: 4.80 @ Pinnacle
The battle of the two Russians will undoubtedly be the main highlight of women’s tennis on Friday, as there is not much going on elsewhere and the clash between Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki is simply bound to be a much more boring affair – unlike this one, which will see plenty of big hitting and a fair number of winners.
Maria Sharapova has always been the dominant force in this particular match-up, but her performances against Sara Errani and Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino were not the greatest and that is a worrying sign. On the other hand, Maria Kirilenko should be full of confidence after her stunning comeback against Kvitova. And you just know that she is playing well by looking at her recent results, which include wins against the likes of Agnieszka Radwanska and Sabine Lisicki.
The conditions in Indian Wells are pretty tricky and much will depend on who is going to negotiate them better today, but, given everything, it seems that Kirilenko has been negotiating them better so far this week and that has to count for something. She doesn’t have as much quality as Sharapova, but she is a fighter and will know what to do against her big rival, so it is easy to fancy her chances of getting something from this match. A set certainly won’t be out of her range – and even the outright victory might be within it.