So Indian Wells draws to a close and just like last year it wasn't the result we all wanted as World Number 1 Novak Djokovic won his 4th title in Palm Springs defeating Roger 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2 in a high quality encounter that lasted 2 hours and 17 minutes.
It was another fantastic battle between the two players that had a number of ridiculous points and momentum swings that were worthy of any final and it's always a shame that there has to be a winner and loser in matches like this. This time around Djoker was the one who got the job done and it was very well deserved; Fed was close and even though he fought hard till the death things didn't quite happen for him.
The win sees Djokovic cement his position at the top of men's tennis and he now has 138 weeks at No. 1, just three weeks away from tying Nadal for the the sixth spot of weeks spent at the top of the rankings.
Quick Match Recap
Djokovic won the toss and elected to serve, holding to love to state his intentions early. Federer soon levelled but then had to save a break point in game 4 which he came through for 2 games all.
Djokovic had clearly come out to play and his return on this surface is devastating; after recovering from 0-30 on his own serve he then broke Federer to take a 4-2 lead. That proved to be decisive as the Serb took the set 6 games to 3. A very high level from him and Fed wasn't able to assert his dominance, return well enough or get enough cheap points on his serve.
Into set 2 and after holding his opening service game Fed had an immediate chance to break, hitting a brilliant overhead to setup break point but Djokovic held firm for 1-1. The defending champion then broke Roger's serve to 15 and saved 2 more break points to consolidate with some clutch serving for a 3-1 lead.
At 3-4 Roger then slipped to 30-40 and was in grave danger of seeing the match slip away but he dug deep to hold and then broke serve to level at 4-4. A huge game from Fed that included the point of the match, a Djoker double fault and a fantastic chip charge play.
The Swiss then held to love in a stunning 1 minute game to lead 5-4 and again created 0-30 on the Djokovic serve only for Novak to deliver some line finding serves when he needed them. Back to back love holds followed and the set went into a tie break.
The break saw Djokovic carve out several mini breaks with his consistent hitting but he kept handing them back with double faults. Eventually he moved into a 5-4 lead and had two serves for the title but delivered two double faults to give Roger set point which he took first time of asking. A crazy tie break really and one Fed was pretty lucky to get out of. On a side note the point at 5-3 really sums up this match – Fed hit about 5 or 6 incredible shots but Djokovic tracked them all down, he did eventually win it but it just showed that the court does not really reward shotmaking of the highest order and you have to win the point 10 times over to get it done.
Just like we saw in the Wimbledon final after snatching momentum back Roger soon lost it, going down a break 2-0 in the decider. Breaking back immediately was imperative to stand any sort of chance winning and after a marathon game where Djokovic saved 3 out of 4 break points Fed finally got the breakthrough, drawing an error from Djokovic with a sliced backhand.
Both players then traded holds and Djokovic moved into a 3-2 lead. Roger looked to be the better player at that moment and at 40-15 he looked set to level at 3 games all. However he made a poor decision to hit a forehand cross court when down the line was open to get pegged back to deuce before hitting a double fault on break point to fall 4-2 behind. Annoying to serve a double on a key point but but Fed only won 15/41 (37%) behind his second serve so the need to deliver a high quality 2nd serve was likely the reason he overcooked it and didn't hit it with enough top spin to bring it in.
Djokovic then held to love, meaning he'd won 7 points in a row to lead 5-2 and he then broke Roger for the 5th time in the match to come out a worth 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2 winner.
|N. Djokovic||R. Federer|
|1st Serve %||60%||58%|
|1st Serve Points Won||47/61 (77%)||41/57 (72%)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||21/40 (53%)||15/41 (37%)|
|Break Points Saved||8/10 (80%)||8/13 (62%)|
|Service Games Played||15||14|
|1st Return Points Won||16/57 (28%)||14/61 (23%)|
|2nd Return Points Won||26/41 (63%)||19/40 (48%)|
|Break Points Won||5/13 (38%)||2/10 (20%)|
|Return Games Played||14||15|
|Net Points Won||6/8||19/32|
|Total Service Points Won||68/101 (67%)||56/98 (57%)|
|Total Return Points Won||42/98 (43%)||33/101 (33%)|
|Total Points Won||110/199 (55%)||89/199 (45%)|
Shot of the Match
Thoughts on the Match
Novak did well to sustain the lead for most of the match; I think he found an extra gear in the end
Where to start with this one? Firstly it was another high quality match in the Federer Djokovic rivalry which is easily the most exciting matchup in men's tennis right now. And secondly it was yet again a successful tournament from Federer's point of view where he defended last years points total and defeated two top 10 players en route to the final.
Of course it was somewhat of a disappointing end with a 6-2 whimper final set but when you look at the stats and who played the more solid there could only really be one winner. Could Roger have won? Of course, if he levelled for 3-3 in the decider then anything could happen but Djokovic was consistently the one pressurising and won 21 more points than Roger in the match; a healthy margin and he broke the Swiss serve 5 times.
I had a feeling Djokovic was going to prevail in this one and he came up with the sort of play I expected. The conditions in Indian Wells are so well suited to his game that defeating him is one of the toughest propositions imaginable. You can't hit through the court and cheap points on serve are a rarity. It's all about trying to play with controlled aggression and pick your spots to pull the trigger but when Djokovic returns so well and plays good offence himself its hard to ever be in a position to pull it off. Roger managed it plenty of times in the match but never really for a sustained period to get himself into the lead. All his best plays usually came when trying to recover a break or keep parity on the scoreboard. Djokovic always had a little bit of breathing room and his intensity was at a very high level over 3 sets; it was really only the double faults in the tie break that prevented him closing it out in straight sets.
Could Fed have done anything differently? Tough to say really, maybe he let Djokovic hold too many service games pressure free with some average returning but Djoker really was serving well. Obviously to get broken from 40-15 will hurt too, but that didn't cost him the match as such, it just prevented him ever getting in the position to win it. Even if he levelled at 3-3 with the way Djokovic was returning with depth and precision it wasn't going to be easy to hold serve for the 3 more games required to win the set or at least force a tie break. Just disappointing in the end for the match to slip away pretty quickly after recovering a break in set 2 and again in set 3. Very similar to the Wimbledon final last year, Fed fighting all the way to stay in it but just not quite having the answers in the final set.
Really though I think the match just boils down to who preferred the conditions and who was the more solid player. Interestingly Feliciano Lopez said Indian Wells has some of the slowest courts on tour this week, and a number of interesting stats were pulled up during the final; Robbie Koenig revealed that Hawkeye data shows that Indian Wells is 40% slower than Dubai and the bounce height is 0.78m in Dubai and 1.12m Indian Wells, a huge difference and when the margins are so small they can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Not excuses, just facts 🙂
As for Djokovic there's not really much to add – he has a ridiculous return of serve and is like a human wall from the back of the court. Everything comes back and in many cases with more on it. The likes of Murray are at a similar sort of level at getting balls back but Djokovic invariably gets more on the ball which allows him to still be offensive even when he's doing the splits on a backhand. Quite incredible how he defends so well and I also thought he had a great serving day especially on the big points, countless times he landed big serves when he needed them.
Overall I thought it was another top quality tournament from Fed, schooling Berdshit, handling Raonic and just playing the brand of tennis that nobody else can even come close to. No trophy at the end of it but certainly not a loss that stings or lives long in the memory.
Next up is
Miami a Ski holiday in Switzerland followed by a clay training block. Monte Carlo follows and it will be interesting to see how Fed fairs on the clay over the spring. I'm sure there'll be some outfit posts, fan stories and a whole lot more in the mean time so stay tuned 😉