World No 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus charged into the final of the Indian Wells WTA tournament with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Germany's Angelique Kerber on Friday.
Both players struggled to hold serve in breezy conditions on the showpiece stadium court and Azarenka sealed the win by breaking her 18th-seeded opponent in the ninth game of the second set when the German hit a forehand long.
Australian Open champion Azarenka will face second-seeded Maria Sharapova in Sunday's final after 2008 winner Ana Ivanovic of Serbia retired hurt from the second semi-final because of an injured left hip when trailing the Russian 6-4, 0-1.
"I can't play, I can't push," a tearful Ivanovic told the chair umpire before withdrawing from the match.
Ivanovic had taken an injury time-out after the ninth game of the first set before returning to the court for two more games and exiting with Sharapova 30-0 up on her serve.
Azarenka improved her record for this year to 22-0 with her victory over the left-hander Kerber.
"I am so excited, it's the first time for me to be in the final here," a beaming Azarenka said in a courtside interview. "It's a great event and I love playing here."
Asked how tricky the swirling breezes had been at the Indian Well Tennis Garden, Azarenka replied: "It was (tricky) but it made it a little bit more interesting, a lot more adversity and challenge for both of us."
The pony-tailed Belarusian moved into outright second place in the all-time standings for the best start to a WTA Tour season.
Swiss Martina Hingis leads the way with 37 consecutive victories to launch her 1997 campaign with Azarenka next best and American Serena Williams in third, with 21 in 2003.