World No. 2 Novak Djokovic prevailed in a dramatic third set in the BNP Paribas Open final to end Roger Federer’s winning streak at 11 matches and clinch his third Indian Wells title. After failing to serve out the victory at 5-4 in the third set, he came back strong in the tie-break to defeat the four-time champion 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) on Sunday afternoon.
"As I said before the match today, very few points will decide a winner, and that's what happened," said Djokovic. "Roger is playing at a very high level.... He just played better than he did in the last 13, 14 months. I needed to really be at the top of my game and very concentrated the last moment in order to win. That's what I've done. Very proud of my achievements during this tournament."
The 26-year-old Serbian claimed his 42nd title and 17th at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, tying American Andre Agassi at third on the Masters 1000 title leaders list.
Djokovic also narrowed his deficit in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Federer to 16-17, avenging his recent loss to his Swiss rival. Two weeks ago in the Dubai semi-finals, Federer had rallied from a set down to snap a three-match losing streak against Djokovic.
Federer raced through the opening set in 31 minutes after opening up a 3-0 lead to begin their 33rd meeting. Djokovic pressed for the break in the second set and finally delivered in the eighth game as Federer pulled a forehand wide.
After fighting off Djokovic’s first three break point chances in the third set, Federer committed two straight errors off his forehand to give up the break 2-1. Djokovic held the match on his racquet in the 10th game, but similar to his semi-final against John Isner on Saturday when he failed to serve out the match on his first two tries in the second set, he faltered after falling behind triple break point.
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Djokovic took the mini-break in the opening point of the tie-break and rolled out to a commanding 5-1 lead. The Serbian put away the match on his second championship point after two hours and 12 minutes, handing Federer his first loss in five Indian Wells finals. Djokovic won exactly one more point than Federer, 99 to 99.
"It was an interesting end to the match, no doubt," said Federer. "But I think he played well. At the end he made sure he kept the ball in play and I might have made a few too many errors when it really mattered. But I think he made a crucial sort of 20 minutes, half and hour midway through the second set and third set where things could have gone either way. But credit to him for toughening it out and winning that second set and getting the breaker in the third."
Djokovic also won the BNP Paribas Open in 2008 and '11, and joined Jimmy Connors, Michael Chang and Rafael Nadal for second place on the list of the tournament's title leaders.
"The way I won this title is something that makes me very happy and gives me mentally a lot of satisfaction because I have had specifically these three matches against [Marin] Cilic and yesterday's semi-final and today's final, situations where I played three sets where it was very tense, very emotional," said Djokovic. "A few points really here and there could go either way, and then it went my way. I stayed mentally tough, and that, for me, is something that gives me a lot of encouragement and hopefully a confidence boost for the rest of the season."
Djokovic, who next travels to Miami for the Sony Open Tennis, earned $1 million and 1,000 Emirates ATP Rankings points as the victor of the season’s first Masters 1000 tournament. The 32-year-old Federer collected $500,000 and 600 points, and will climb three spots to No. 5 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday.
A total of 431,527 fans passed through the gates of the expanded Indian Wells Tennis Garden with its brand new Stadium 2, surpassing the previous attendance record by nearly 50,000.
AT A GLANCE
• World No. 2 Novak Djokovic rallied for a 36 63 76(3) victory over No. 7 seed Roger Federer to win his first ATP World Tour title of the season, his 17th ATP Masters 1000 title and 42nd overall. With the win, he moves ahead of Stefan Edberg for 14th place in the Open Era titles list. He is also tied for No. 3 (w/Agassi) in the ATP Masters 1000 titles list (behind Nadal 26, Federer 21).
• Djokovic won one more point (99-98) than Federer in the 2hr, 12min. final.
• This was the third time in four years the eventual winner lost the opening set (2011, ’13-14).
• It was Djokovic’s third BNP Paribas Open title (2008, ’11), joining Jimmy Connors, Michael Chang and Rafael Nadal for second place on the tournament’s titles list (Federer leads with four).
• All three of Djokovic’s titles in Indian Wells have come in three sets (2008, d. Fish 62 57 63; 2011, d. Nadal 46 63 62).
• Djokovic avenged his semi-final loss to Federer in Dubai last month and he closed the career head-to-head record to 16-17 against the Swiss (tied 13-13 on hard courts).
• This was the second time in their 33 meetings the match came down to a decisive set tie-break (’07 Montreal Final, Djokovic 76 26 76). That was also the Serb’s first career win (after four losses) in their rivalry.
• This was the 27th time in the last 28 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments (since 2011) a member of the Big 4 (Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Federer) has won the title (except ’12 Paris-Bercy, Ferrer).
• Federer’s 11-match winning streak came to an end and he was trying to earn his second title (Dubai) of the season. The 32-year-old Swiss will move from No. 8 to No. 5 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.