Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will lock horns with a title on the line for the ninth time when they duel in Sunday’s BNP Paribas Open final.
It will be their second meeting in Indian Wells, with Djokovic prevailing in their 2011 semi-final encounter, and while Federer leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 17-15, the Serb is looking forward to the challenge.
“Whenever we play each other it's always a huge challenge for both of us and very few points can decide the winner,” said Djokovic. “I do not expect anything less tomorrow. I just hope for myself that I will be able to perform on a high level, because I'm going to need to do that in order to get a chance to win against him.”
Djokovic survived a 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-1 battle with John Isner in the semi-finals. The two-time champion (2008, ‘11) will be seeking his 17th trophy at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 level, which would pull him even with Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi for fifth on the all-time titles list in the category.
“Every single match that we play against each other is always at the later stages of tournaments because we're at the top of the men's game for last seven, eight years,” Djokovic added, referring to Federer. “So it's always tense. It's always emotional. It's always close.
“I don't think that especially in the last 15 matches we played against each other there was a clear favourite, I would say. We played a lot of great matches in Grand Slams and (ATP World Tour) Masters 1000 series events. I look forward to it. It's always a challenge in every way for me to win against Roger.”
Federer is coming off a three-set triumph over Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships just a couple weeks ago. The Swiss went on to register a second consecutive comeback victory over Tomas Berdych in the final and has not lost since.
“I think we have had great matches always. I think we have played here as well before, if I'm not mistaken,” said Federer, following his convincing 6-3, 6-1 win over Alexandr Dolgopolov in Saturday’s first semi-final. “So it's one of those matches I think we both know what to expect going into, and even more so maybe now that we have just played in Dubai and also in Paris and London at the end of last year.
“So we played quite a bit recently, which helps both of us with some info. We don't have to go way back. I think he's fresh and eager to really try and win this if he makes the finals clearly, because he hasn't played many tournaments yet this season. I think he really wants it, and that's going to be a challenge for me to accept that and fight that with good play myself.”