Djokovic overcomes Federer to win 50th title

The first Masters 1000 event of the year has been won, once again, by defending Champion and World no. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic exacted revenge for the Dubai final, where he was defeated by 33-year old World no. 2 Roger Federer in straight sets, by beating the Swiss legend in 3 sets—his second defeat of the year. The final wasn’t exactly their most competitive match in their rivalry, with the Swiss player being outplayed in the first and third set, and just about pulling through in the second—thanks to a shocking 3 double faults in the tiebreak by the Serb. The second set was handed on a platter to Federer twice after Djokovic led 4-2 in the set and then 5-3 in the tiebreak, who failed to capitalize as the Serb upped his play once again in the decider. He went 2-0 up, but conceded serve again to crowd-favorite Federer who moved to 2-2, before breaking him again, and holding steady in a jittery final few games. There was no doubt about who the better player on the day was, with Federer himself committing some ungainly errors and double faults at crucial moments.

This was the first tournament after the Australian Open where Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal participated in the same event. Nadal looked good, still returning from a long injury layoff last year, revving up for claycourt season. He eventually lost to Canadian Milos Raonic in the quarterfinal, unusually giving away two match points in a tight second set tiebreak. If Nadal had won that, he would have faced Federer in their first matchup this season. Instead, Federer went on to easily outplay Raonic again, setting up yet another meeting with the Serb—who outplayed Murray once again in the other semifinal. Murray, who has started 2015 strongly, has still not been able to find a way past Djokovic, who he lost to in the Australian Open final too. There is perhaps no better tennis player on the planet right now, as the new father-of-one reaches the final of almost every tournament he plays in. His second title of the year keeps him safely at the top, and he will head to Miami to defend the next Masters title, an event that Federer has pulled out of this year.

This was Djokovic’s 4th Indian Wells career title, and the 50th of his career. He moved ahead of his own coach Becker (49) and has Agassi (60) in his sights next. He will start as favorite again in a grueling second week at Miami, where Nadal and Murray will be refreshed and charged up to snatch the title away from him. Djokovic’s rivalry with Nadal has been put on hold due to Nadal’s injuries, and he has been dominating his rivalry with Murray while splitting it with Federer—winning the bigger games however. He will look to build towards his ultimate goal, which he hopes to finally achieve this year: The French Open. There is the small matter of 9-time Champion Nadal, and even if the Spaniard is on one leg without his fingers, he will still begin as the favorite in Paris.

Here’s to a competitive and action-packed 2015 again. If any one of Nishikori, Raonic, Cilic (who has disappeared again), Tomic (finding his way back), Del Potro, Berdych, Ferrer and Dimitrov manage to give the top 4 a run for their money, this will be a good year for the future of tennis. Meanwhile, though, enjoy them while they last. Djokovic will last, for a while, while Murray and Nadal will have to pace their bodies and schedules to compete more consistently. Old horse Federer remains the only man who can defeat Djokovic on a more consistent basis, but he must find a way to get past him at Wimbledon. This could be the Swiss player’s final shot at glory there.

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