Azarenka and Sharapova will meet again in the final at Indian Wells.

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Victoria Azarenka extended her winning streak at the start of 2012 to 22 matches as she beat 18th seed Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-3 at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Azarenka’s run is the best start to a season in the women’s game since Martina Hingis won her first 37 games in 1997. Azarenka, though, was generous in her praise for her German opponent. “I’m really impressed by the way Angelique was playing,” Azarenka told the WTA’s official website. “It was the first time we played on the pro tour, so it was a little bit new for me, and she showed some excellent tennis. “I think she’s a great player and she really pushed me to raise my level and really dig to win that match.”

Azarenka will face second seed Maria Sharapova, who was 6-4 0-1 up when opponent Ana Ivanovic was forced to withdraw with what was later confirmed as a left hip injury. Trailing 5-4, Ivanovic took a break nearly eight minutes in length for, at the time, unknown reasons. But anyone who thought this could turn into another three-hour match for Sharapova was sorely mistaken just two games later, after the Russian served out the opening set. A hip injury had affected Ivanovic, so much so that her coach, Nigel Sears, all but told her to let this one go. The Serb soldiered out for one more game, which she won, but the pain was too much to bear; a short session with the trainer confirmed the inevitable. Ivanovic told Sharapova it was over, and it’s still more than four years since the two have played a completed match.


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