|Maria Sharapova of Russia in action against Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during Day 11 at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Florida. (Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP)
KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. - In a battle of former world number 1s, Maria Sharapova outlasted Caroline Wozniacki to reach the final at the $4.828 million Sony Ericsson Open.
The second-seeded Sharapova got past the fourth-seeded Wozniacki 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in just over 2 1/2 hours at Crandon Park outside of Miami.
Sharapova appeared well on her way to capturing the opening set Thursday by running out to a 4-1 lead, but her mighty forehand abandoned her for a stretch as Wozniacki surprisingly won five straight games to take the stanza.
The three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, however, fought back to take the second set handily, setting the stage for a tight third.
Sharapova tallied two breaks to the Danish Wozniacki's one in the final set, which the Russian ultimately closed out by holding serve.
The powerful Sharapova is now 4-2 lifetime against Wozniacki.
Sharapova's opponent in Saturday's final will be fifth-seeded Pole Aggie Radwanska or seventh-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli of France, as that match will be staged on Thursday night. Radwanska was a big winner in Dubai last month, while Bartoli handed Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka her first loss of the year here on Wednesday night.
The 24-year-old Sharapova, who lost to Azarenka in last year's Miami final and the championship match at Indian Wells two weeks ago, is a three-time Sony Ericsson Open runner-up who will appear in her fourth final here in eight years.
Sharapova will now appear in her 40th career WTA final, seeking a 25th title. She's looking for her first championship of 2012, having lost to Azarenka in finals at Indian Wells and the Aussie Open this year.
Saturday's big winner will pocket $712,000.