Indian Wells: Serbia`s Novak Djokovic continued his blistering pace this season by beating Roger Federer to reach the Indian Wells final and supercede the Swiss star as world No. 2. Djokovic reached the final of the $4.5 million ATP Masters 1000 event by defeating Federer 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to extend his match winning streak this season to 17.
"I am playing the best tennis of my life," Djokovic said. "This was one of my biggest tests. Anytime I play Roger it is a big challenge."
Djokovic, who won here in 2008, won 11 consecutive points in the third set to break open the match and post his third victory over 16-time major winner Federer in the past three months. Djokovic moves to Sunday`s final, where he will face world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-4 earlier in the day.
Federer is now 18-3 on the season with all three defeats coming at the hands of Djokovic, who clinched Saturday`s victory on the second match point when the Swiss fired a forehand service return long. With the win, Djokovic moved into the second ranking spot, dropping Federer to third. Djokovic, 23, hammered three aces in the two-hour, six-minute match in front of a near-capacity crowd of about 15,000 on the main stadium court.
The turning point in the match was when Djokovic blitzed Federer for 11 consecutive points in the middle of the third set to turn a 2-2 deadlock into a 5-2 lead. Djokovic broke Federer`s serve three times in the final set after Federer won the second set. Federer got off to a good start in the second, breaking Djokovic in the third game as he hammered a stinging forehand down the line to go ahead 2-1.
Federer went on a run of his own late in the second, winning eight of the final nine points of the set. Federer built a 30-15 lead in the final game of the second when Djokovic hit two straight balls into the net to drop the set and level the match. Federer made some incredible shots that even had Djokovic applauding when he couldn`t get to them.
In the second game of the third set, Federer scooped low for one ball at mid-court and returned it just over the tip of the net cord so it dropped where Djokovic had no chance and could only clap along with the crowd. But former three-time Indian Wells champion Federer also made some tragic errors, like when he double faulted on the last point of the fifth game in the third set. He was up 40-15 with a chance to hold serve and make it 3-2 in his favor but instead the double fault cost him the game and gave Djokovic a 3-2 lead as he went on to win the final four games of the deciding set.
Nadal reached the final by snapping a three-match losing run to del Potro. Nadal, 24, blasted four aces and won 81 percent of his first serve points. "I think I did well. I played a few good games," Nadal said. "I think he had a few more mistakes than usual. That`s help me a little bit. But in general, I think I played my best match in Indian Wells this year by far."
Nadal now has a 5-3 edge in career matches but the Argentine had won the last three heading into Saturday`s contest, including the semi-finals of the 2009 US Open. Second seed Nadal clinched the win in the final game by jumping out to a 40-0 lead and then blasting a serve to the backhand of del Potro who hit it long, ending the one-hour, 51-minute match. Former world No. 4 del Potro came out with more spark, winning the first three games and breaking Nadal`s serve in the second game.
Nadal then won the next five games to take the first set. He clinched the set with a blistering serve to del Potro`s forehand that just nicked his opponent`s racquet.
The fifth game in the second set was one of the longest games of the match and marked the first break in the second set. Del Potro looked like he was going to level it at 40-40 but Nadal chased down a ball deep on the baseline and blasted a perfectly-timed backhand down the line that del Potro had no chance on to break serve and go up 3-2.
"I had my chance basically in the first set," del Potro said. "He improved his game and I felt a little confused with my serve."
Spaniard Nadal is looking for his first ATP title of the season after making it to the semi-finals in Doha and the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in his first two tournaments. Del Potro, who was playing in the Indian Wells semis for the first time, has surged in rankings over the past month going from No. 484 to No. 90.