Russian star Maria Sharapova is poised to capture her third title of the year and a rankings milestone after beating Agnieszka Radwanska in a WTA Bank of the West semi-final.
Fifth seed Sharapova rallied for a 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 triumph over the Polish third seed on Saturday, advancing to the championship match of the $700,000 hardcourt event against eighth seed Victoria Azarenka.
If Russian beauty Sharapova defeats the Belarus star who turned 21 on Saturday, she will rise from 15th in the world and achieve her best ranking since returning from a shoulder injury in May of last year.
Azarenka ousted Australian top seed Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-3, to qualify for her third final of the season. Azarenka has yet to win a title in 2010 and is 1-2 lifetime against Sharapova.
"I will have to be prepared," said Azarenka, who has won 10 of her past 12 matches.
Sharapova has won 17 of her past 20 matches and overcame a sluggish start with a sizzling finish, firing four aces and making all eight of her unforced errors on double faults but none of them coming in the third set.
Azarenka, who ousted 2009 Stanford winner Marion Bartoli of France in the quarter-finals, improved to 18-5 this season on hardcourts, the surface where she has won her three career WTA titles.
Azarenka, ranked 18th, has stressed her return skills and pounced upon French Open runner-up Stosur's second serves to take command.
"I'm pretty good on the return," she said. "That's the big key. I have been practicing reaction on the return. If you react well you can return well."
Stosur, in her sixth 2010 semi-final, leads the WTA with 37 match triumphs this year but could not claim the crown in her first event since cracking the rankings top five, losing to Azarenka for the fourth time in as many meetings.
"She has had such good results. I'm so happy at how I played against her," Azarenka said. "I started to move a little better as the match went on and I improved my defensive game and that helped my offensive game move forward."
Azarenka broke Stosur three times in the first set for a 5-2 edge and held at love to claim the set, then kept the Aussie at bay in the second as well.
"She played well and it wasn't my best day," Stosur said.
"She punished me when I was being too conservative."