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Beyond the Baseline

Maria Sharapova dominates Caroline Wozniacki for second Indian Wells title

Maria Sharapova defeated Caroline Wozniacki for her second career Indian Wells title Sunday. (Frederic J. Brown/Getty) Maria Sharapova defeated Caroline Wozniacki for her second career Indian Wells title Sunday. (Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Maria Sharapova was all business in her 6-2, 6-2 win over Caroline Wozniacki in the finals of the BNP Paribas Open, the Russian's first title of the season and 28th overall. The victory also consolidates her bump in the rankings. On Monday, Sharapova will displace Victoria Azarenka at No. 2 behind Serena Williams.

A few thoughts on Sharapova's dominant run -- she didn't drop a set in her six matches -- to her biggest title since the 2012 French Open:

Sharapova was just "too good": That was Wozniacki's take on what happened and the statistics back her up. Sharapova hit 33 winners to Wozniacki's two and finished with a a plus-8 differential in winners to unforced errors while Wozniacki was minus-17. It was top-notch display of aggressive hitting from Sharapova, and the Dane's effective defensive style didn't have a chance. It was just Sharapova's day to zone.

"She knew she had to go for it," Wozniacki said. "She couldn't just stand there and just wait around. First of all, that's not her game. Second of all, she knew that against me she needs to be very aggressive and take her opportunities. And she took every opportunity she had out there.

"I found it a little bit difficult because her first, second serve were pretty much the same speed. It was hard. And she stepped into the returns. And even when I felt like she was out there running, she still came down with some shots that were going very close to the lines. She forced me to do a few errors that I usually wouldn't do."

"I felt like everything that she wanted to do today was going in. She was making very few errors, and if she did, then it was really at the times where it didn't really matter. I have to say she just played too well today. I tried to do my best out there, but, yeah, it just wasn't good enough today."

Sharapova downplayed her dominant form, even expressing (feigning?) surprise at the implication she was hitting the ball better Sunday that she has in a while.

"I didn't feel like I was hitting rockets out there," she said. "I thought I was being aggressive, but I was doing the right things and being patient enough and looking for the right shot when I wanted to move in a little bit.

"I don't know," she said with a shrug. "Sometimes when you're in the match, you don't really realize what's going on. Obviously, this sounds like the case here."

That's the best Sharapova's played on hard courts in years: In the end, the match didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. Sharapova's firepower, even on a slow hard court, exposed the offensive deficiency in Wozniacki's game, as the Dane simply had no answers. Sharapova attacked her weak second serve and pounced on anything she could load up and smack from the baseline.

One area of clear improvement from Sharapova this last week has been her lateral movement. When Wozniacki picked her apart here two years ago 6-1, 6-2, she was able to get Sharapova on the move, forcing her to play corner-to-corner defense. When she tried to employ the same tactic Sunday, Sharapova was a step quicker to the ball, allowing her to get the balls deep and into the corner to turn the tables in the rally.

"Rennis is not just about offense," Sharapova said. "Of course, you get to offense by being a good, solid defensive player, as well.  It's very helpful."

It was a master class from Sharapova and the best I've seen her play on a hard court in years. Given her improved prowess on clay, it's quite possible these slower courts suit her better as her game has evolved, allowing her more time to set up her shots and step into returns.

The power is at the top: With Sharapova's first title of the season, the WTA's consolidation of power at the top continues. The biggest titles of the year have been won by Azarenka (Australian Open, Doha), Williams (Brisbane), Agnieszka Radwanska (Sydney), Petra Kvitova (Dubai) and now Sharapova. Again, this is good news for the women's tour, with the game's biggest stars and key contenders coming through week in and week out.
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