Watch out Roger Federer. Novak Djokovic is coming to get you.
On Sunday the rangy Serb outlasted a determined Mardy Fish 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 to win his second title of the year after the Australian Open at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
Fish, seemingly perpetually serving himself out of 0-30 holes during the match, somehow stretched the match to three sets before Djokovic displayed his champion’s mentality.
Djokovic began the third set by dropping into a 0-40 hole, only to serve his way out of trouble in an impressive display with three consecutive aces. Fish couldn’t seem to recover from failing to break serve in the opening game, losing his first serve of the third set straight-away, and playing catch-up for the remainder of the set until the Serb served it out at 5-3.
“There is something in this desert air which keeps me going year after year,” Djokovic said. “I am doing pretty good here…I also want to congratulate Mardy on a fantastic week. Obviously, his ranking is not good enough. He’s a much better player than that and deserves to be ranked much higher.”
Fish beat three Top 10 players at Indian Wells, including a stunning straight-set shellacking of world No. 1 Roger Federer in the semifinals.
“This has been a tremendous week for me, definitely one I will never forget,” Fish said. “Yesterday was one of the best days of my life and this is my favorite tournament.”
Throughout the event, with off-again on-again coach Kelly Jones in his player’s box, Fish played first-strike tennis, cutting back on the serve-and-volleying and opting to take a big crack at his opponent’s first offering. It worked to perfection against Federer in the semifinals, where at times Fish could seemingly do no wrong. In the final against Djokovic, Fish was mentally up and down, sometimes forgetting his game plan, but then playing his best tennis when he was down, crackling his much-improved forehand and keeping Djokovic scrambling to stay in points.
The world No. 3 Djokovic doesn’t gain a whole lot of ground on the world No. 1 Federer as he was a runner-up at Indian Wells in 2007. Likewise next week he begins his defense of his Miami title, but Djokovic is clearly sending a message to Federer, who he intends to go mano-a-mano (or is it mono-a-mono?) in 2008.
For Fish, the week’s worth of excitement won’t be enough for U.S. Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe to consider him for the upcoming U.S. vs. France tie, but it will be enough to consider him for future ties, depending on the results of current American No. 2 James Blake.
Credit coach Kelly Jones for fixing Fish’s flighty forehand wing, which consistently broke down on big occasions? Regardless, the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami will be the venue to see if Fish can parlay his momentum into a fish platter or upgrade bonus meal with fries and large drink. Or any other “fish” headline of clever take you can think of. Go Fish.
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