For the second straight year Roger Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in a 3-set Indian Wells final. Federer was on the losing side early and at risk of getting wiped off the court, but the Swiss overcame a break deficit in the second set and then won a thrilling breaker.
Djokovic, though, jumped in from early on Federer in the third and never lost his grip winning his 50th career title 63, 67(5), 62.
While Djokovic heads to Miami as the defending champion, Federer goes on a month break before Monte Carlo in April.
Federer still leads Djokovic 20-18 but he’s 0-3 against the Serb at Indian Wells.
Afterward, Federer, who was seeking a 5th Indian Wells title and 24th Masters, talked about the match, about Djokovic and how quickly he’ll move on.
Q. Obviously come back in the second set. What do you think sparked that? I guess what do you think allowed him to pull away at the end?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think I started to play a bit better as the match went on. I think it was definitely my best spell midway through the second to mid third set. I mean, obviously got tough, as well, on both ends. Got physical and so forth.
But, you know, I’m disappointed clearly not to go up 3‑2 and then see what happens from then, because it was a tough game to break in the third to come back on serve at 2‑1. So it was disappointing to sort of let it slip away, and next thing you know the match is over.
Novak did well to obviously sustain the lead for most of the match; I think he found an extra gear in the end. It was tough, you know. You know, I enjoyed the match; it had a bit of everything. Controlled aggression was the key out there to try to play like that from the baseline.
Q. Did your behind‑the‑back return loosen you up? You seemed to play much better almost immediately after that.
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t remember what happened or anything. Honestly, like one shot like that is not going to change one thing, to be quite honest. It’s more the adrenaline of just fighting back and feeling better.
You know, I felt like I was trying to really focus a lot on my serve because it was very important because he returns so well off the second serve. He really plays everybody really tough when he returns off the second serve, and I think that’s what also was tough today against him.
Q. Do you think this unbelievable game when you broke back for two games all, do you think it took too much energy out of you mentally or physically?
ROGER FEDERER: No. I thought it was positive for me. Very positive physically and mentally. I think he smashed a racquet in the process after that maybe. I felt like I was getting the upper hand from the baseline. I was making every return, first and second serve, so overall it was the perfect thing to happen.
That’s why I’m even more disappointed that it ended up finishing the way it did. For me it was totally against the way the match was going. It was actually the comeback for me to really, you know, now, snap my authority on the match. He loosened up and tried to play a bit more aggressive and that worked. He did very well at that. After that he never looked back and he loosened up a bit.
Q. There is nothing neutral about the crowds when you’re playing. A lot of athletes always say they are not paying attention to what’s around them. Are you aware of how much the crowd was pulling for you in that second set when you made your run?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, definitely felt like they wanted to see a third set. I was hoping that was not just for the match itself but for me personally. (Smiling.)
I hope it was like that, but if it’s not it’s cool, too. I get it. They want to see more tennis or more drama, so I’m disappointed the end was like a bit flat from my side.
But shouldn’t take anything away from Novak because he did very well. He hung tough and he hung around and played a wonderful tournament. But clearly was nice playing in an atmosphere like this, and it’s clearly the great moments of athlete’s or player’s career when you do feel the love of the crowd, which I did feel right at the end of the second set.
Q. Why did you go flat? What happened?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know if I went flat. I just think ‑‑ you know, you miss a couple of shots which you shouldn’t and then maybe I didn’t serve as good as I should have, and then that’s all Novak needs. Then he doesn’t blink, you know. It’s pretty quick.
You know, if you lose 6‑2 or 6‑3 in the third, that doesn’t matter. For me, the problem was to be broken being up 40‑15 on my serve. That was a disappointing part.
So you know what? I’m not going to look back on that match, on that moment very long. That will be forgotten like probably in like 25 minutes or so. (Smiling.)
Q. Just looking at the last two finals that you have played ‑ and both have been extraordinary matches; obviously a disappointment for yourself ‑ but can you compare the disappointment this year to last year? Which one was a bit more disappointing or less so?
ROGER FEDERER: Honestly, I don’t remember much from last year how I felt right after. I felt flat in the golf cart driving back just thinking like just a disappointing last four games, but still a good tournament.
When I walk out of here, I will be like, It was a good tournament, you know. I had a great run, good start to the season, and wish and hoped I could have won today, but Novak was tough and he played very well. He deserved it and I will respect that.
That’s what I’m looking forward to, training very hard now in the next three weeks. It’s key for me to get really in great shape for the clay court season and for the grass court season.
I’m actually looking forward to that and spending also time in Switzerland. Overall it’s going to be great.
Q. How would you describe the current challenge of trying to solve Novak when he’s playing kind of his peak level?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, I have beat him the last couple of times. Not like I lost ten in a row. I don’t know where you’re going.
I must say I can play my game, but I know some surfaces help me more than others. Clearly also depends on how well he serves and returns and plays and all that. We usually play in finals so usually we are both peaking at the same time.
Then like in other sports there is no draws, you know. Somebody always has to win, so one guy looks great, the other guy looks mediocre. That’s anyway how I read the press in Dubai. I was great; he was so‑so. In London I was terrible. He won, but we didn’t play. (Laughter).
No, but seriously, that’s kind of how it goes a little bit. I get it, what it’s going to be tomorrow. We both played a good tournament, and him a little bit better at the end.
Q. We talk about the end of the match, but what are your thoughts about the start of the match? Did you feel like maybe you started a bit slower than him, or was it anything else?
ROGER FEDERER: I felt like I wasn’t returning well enough, you know, especially first serve. I know that’s tough, but he was getting way too many free points.
I had some opportunities, you know. Love‑30, couple of break points here and there. I know he served well when he had to, as well. At the same time I just felt like I should get back more returns into play. Then I could have put more pressure on him from the baseline; kind of never really happened for me.
So for a long time I was always trailing. I was putting myself under pressure unnecessarily sometimes on my own serve. But that was, again, a credit to Novak’s great way of returning second serves.
He’s always going to catch some first serves, especially here where it’s not as fast. I knew it was going to be tough. That was the most disappointing part I was telling myself throughout the match. It’s like where is that return on the first serve?
Midway through the second it started to get better and I got into more rallies, and that’s where I think it became close again. That was tougher for him, because all of a sudden I think I was playing better so he wasn’t getting as many free points. He had to pull back and play a bit more safe.
So it was from my side a bit more up and down, and he was just more solid. That’s why he totally deserved to win today, in my opinion.
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