- Indian Wells
My confidence suffered - Djokovic
Novak Djokovic admits that his confidence suffered after his worst start to a year since 2006.
For the past seven seasons, Djokovic headed to Indian Wells with at least one title already under his belt - including the Australian Open in the last three - but arrived in California last week with nothing added to the trophy cabinet since the ATP World Tour Finals in November.
Djokovic came back from a set down to beat Roger Federer 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) on Sunday, having been broken in his very first service game, before surviving a late Federer rally which saw the world No.2 forced into a championship-deciding tie-break.
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"Not winning a title before coming here left certain doubts," Djokovic admitted.
"I had ups and downs in my concentration in opening rounds, but I managed to stay mentally strong and have that self-belief. That's something that definitely makes this title very special to me."
After Federer breezed to the first set in 31 minutes, Djokovic settled down and locked into the punishing rallies that marked most of the match. He earned the lone break of the second set to go up 5-3 after Federer pulled a forehand wide.
"I know he always comes out confident, aggressive," Djokovic said. "He doesn't give you the victory; you have to earn it."
Djokovic got the early break in the third, again on one of Federer's forehand errors, to lead 2-1. His 112mph ace gave him a 4-2 lead, and he extended it to 5-3 with a backhand winner down the line. Federer served a love-game to trail 5-4. Djokovic served for the match in the next game, but his forehand error allowed Federer to tie it up at five-all.
"I was able to just keep the pressure on Novak and show him that if he slips up, I will be there and I will make it a very competitive match in the end for him," Federer said.
Federer held at love again, and Djokovic gave up just one point on his serve for a 6-6 tie.
"I made my presence after that," Djokovic said. "I stepped closer to the line, and made him play an extra shot always and changing the pace of the ball. It paid off."
The Serb raced to a 5-1 lead in the tie-break, helped by four errors from Federer. Another of Federer's forehand errors gave Djokovic a 6-2 lead before the Swiss star's ace ensured Djokovic would have to win the match on his serve. He did, when Federer's backhand landed in the net.
"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," Federer said.
Djokovic's victory evened their rivalry on hard courts at 13 wins apiece. The Serb won his other Indian Wells titles in 2008 and 2011.
Federer still leads the overall series 17-16, having beaten Djokovic in three sets in the semi-finals at Dubai two weeks ago.
Federer was trying to win a record fifth title in the desert, and at 32, he would have been the oldest Masters 1000 winner since 34-year-old Andre Agassi won at Cincinnati in 2004. Djokovic will remain No.2 in the world, while Federer will rise three spots to No.5 in the ATP Tour rankings.