World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic captured his fourth Indian Wells title Sunday with a stirring 62, 67(5), 63 win over rival Roger Federer in one of the best match of 2015.
Djokovic looked in complete command leading by a set and by a second set break (with a point for a double break) until the Swiss roared back to force a third, thanks to several ill-timed double faults. But after a brief delay – see Djokovic’s hand shaking – with Federer hitting the toilets, the World No. 1 regrouped to break early (Federer double fault) to win his 50th career ATP title, moving one head of coach Boris Becker.
Djokovic’s title makes his the first player to defend Indian Wells since Federer in 2006. And he wins his 21st career Masters title. At 27 can he catch Rafael Nadal’s record of 27?
Djokovic, who says he’s at his prime, now goes across to coast to Miami to try and defend his 2014 title. He will join Becker in Miami.
Djokovic talked about the big win:
Q. Talk about how the second set got away from you with the double faults in the tiebreak and how you managed to pull yourself together and get into the third and run away with it.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I thought overall it was a great match from my side, very solid, great intensity, great commitment to hit every ball. I was very focused in the present moment, and I thought set and a break and it was a break point for 5‑2 up. I thought I could have done the job earlier.
Credit to Roger for fighting through. Showed again why he’s a competitor and champion, somebody that never gives up. You know, when we got to the third set obviously it was anybody’s game.
I managed to regroup. I managed to, you know, overcome that frustration of handing that tiebreak to him with three double faults in crucial moments.
But, you know, that’s sport. Obviously under pressure sometimes these things happen and it’s important to, as I said, regroup, bounce back, and focus on next one.
Q. As you have lost the past two matches against him, was it even more special to win this one?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, of course. It does definitely help the future encounters that I will have with Roger. I have lost two matches in straight sets against him. He was a better player on the court both in Shanghai and Dubai.
It’s great that I managed to win this match in the big tournament and to win it in a way that I felt like I was the better player on the court. That definitely will help. It’s going to give me confidence, not just for future matches that I play against him, but just for Miami and the rest of the season.
Q. One thing that Jelena Jankovic said earlier when she was serving for the match in the second set in her match is that the pressure was so great. She had so many nerves she couldn’t lift her arm. How do you deal with that pressure? You had to deal as well in turning the match around, had the match‑‑ then had to deal with it in the second set and turned it back around. Can you just explain a little bit what you go through when you’re trying to get to the finish line?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, the experience of playing many matches in the big stage and of this importance definitely helps in these particular moments to know what to play. You know, the right shot and stay calm and comitted only to the next ball.
We are all humans. We all fall under pressure sometimes. It’s completely normal, even though I have had so much experience. Roger, as well.
I mean, today 3‑2 in the third he made double fault to give me the break. So it does happen; it’s normal on this level with this kind of intensity and competitive spirit that is out there, it happens that you fail sometimes.
But as I said in the previous question, it’s important to bounce back. It’s important to regroup, and, okay, let it go and move on to the next mission.
Q. Roger’s No. 2 behind you in the ranking, but do you consider him today as clearly the most dangerous guy for you, the guy you like the least to face?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he’s definitely right at the top, one of the biggest rivals that I have‑‑ that I ever had since I started playing professionally, as a matter of fact.
He has been always the ultimate challenge, with Nadal, depending on which surface I get to play. Obviously Nadal on clay is the toughest one to beat, and Roger on the quicker surfaces.
But because they have been so dominant over the years and so consistent and so confident on the court, it’s very difficult to get into the mix and start winning titles against them.
But I managed to start doing that in 2011, and that season gave me a huge boost of the confidence and self‑belief that I can actually be No. 1, that I can actually win against these guys.
But, you know, we still keep on pushing and moving the borders. We still keep on improving, I think all of us. We are playing better than we did a few years ago, and it’s because of these rivalries. That’s something that is special in our sport.
Q. What does a title like this mean to you when you look at the record and the stats: a milestone 50th career, record equalling fourth, first man since Federer in nine years to win this back to back years. What do those figures mean to you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’ve got to look forward to get to Miami and have a dinner with Boris. I think it’s on him this time. (Smiling.) I surpassed his 49th title, so that gives a little bit of special spice to this title.
But, no, of course, joking aside, it’s a great milestone. I don’t take anything for granted. I don’t take anything a guarantee or something that just came from the life.
I mean, I believe that I have to earn everything that I do, and this title today, as well. I appreciate every moment that I spend on the court. Of course the milestone that I achieved today was a great motivation for me prior to this event.
You know, I always try to look for additional motivation, because that’s something that is necessary, especially if you’re playing on the highest level.
Q. Do you think you get enough credit for your achievements, given the bar that’s raised by Roger and Rafa with, you know, the 14 Grand Slams and 17? You have 8. Do you think you get enough credit?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s difficult to say. I mean, I’m really enjoying playing tennis and competing, and of course all these achievements I’m proud of. I feel appreciation from other people as well, and how in some ways, you know, it’s difficult to compare with the achievements of 17 Grand Slam wins of Federer and 14 Grand Slam wins of Nadal and all the titles that they have. I mean, it’s not easy to get into that mix, you know.
But it’s kind of a golden era of the men’s tennis right now, and I’m very proud to be part of it. I believe that big part of my success and my achievements are actually those matches that I have had with Rafa and Roger.
Actually those two guys, you know, they made me a better player.
Q. Along those lines, watching the match and also following it on social media, one of the things that kept coming through on my feed was how many of your fans felt that the crowd was rooting for Roger. When you hear so much of that, does it unnerve you at all? Are you thinking they just want a third set? More tennis? What goes through your mind when that’s happening?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, first of all, with all the success that he had throughout his career, he’s somebody that’s been around the tour for so many years. Plus, he’s a great guy on and off the court, and I’m sure it’s normal that he has the support, major support anywhere he goes, especially here in the United States.
So I don’t get, you know, upset with that, even though in the moments of the battle, you know, you sometimes when you’re looking for the support of the crowd it’s maybe ‑‑I did feel I had my support, but, you know, majority was in his side. That’s something that’s normal. I don’t really get upset for that. I expect that.
I have to earn my, I would say majority of the support here or any other tournament, you know, with the time spent on this level, with the titles, and with my responsibility as somebody that is on the top of the men’s game. You know, on and off the court have to carry myself in the right way, and then hopefully one day the people will get to recognize that even more and more.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m saying nobody cheers for me. It’s completely wrong to think that way. I actually think that I have lots of supporters. And I do appreciate that very much, that when I play Roger it’s something that you expect that he has more support because of who he is.
Q. The television cameras caught you after the tiebreaker taking a sip of water and your hand was shaking a little bit. I was wondering if you were aware that that was happening, and if so, what it was?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah. It was exactly what you saw. (Laughter.) So, yeah, it happens I guess sometimes. The body has reactions and movements that you’re not in control of. But, you know, it was a tough tiebreaker for me. It was frustrating and I just went through emotions.
But I managed to calm down and get in the calmer kind of movement in the third set.
Q. So was it like panic or anger or has that happened before?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know what to say. I can’t identify the emotion that was behind it, but it was a little bit of everything. Obviously knowing that I was so close to victory, making three double faults, the pressure, it was all part of it.
As I said before, we are all humans. We all go through those emotions like everybody goes through on a daily basis. Just because of the experience, because of the training of the mind and the body, we understand what it takes to calm yourself and get yourself in that zone where you want to be.
Q. My question was similar. Once you got broken in the third set, spiked the ball and breaking the racquet eventually, does that help you clear your mind? You don’t do it really very often.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I’m trying to do that less obviously. But, you know, I could tolerate the loss of the break in the second set, end of the second and, you know, maybe a tiebreak loss, but I couldn’t tolerate that third break that I lost in 2‑love.
But, again, you go through these emotional ups and downs in a way. But when I have done that, when I was finished with what I have done, I just said, Okay, this is it. I let it go. Now I have to, you know, focus and stand up in a minute and play my best.
Q. On the flip side of that, what are the feelings that you had when Roger double‑faulted to lose serve?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He’s human as well. (Laughter.) I felt huge relief, to be honest. I saw I’m not the only one that is double faulting under pressure.
But, you know, again, that was a huge game, 3‑2. He was I think 40‑15 up in that game and managed to play some good points; got myself in a position to break, and then he handed me that break.
In a way, if you look the big picture, I thought I deserved it in a way, because I really fought hard for it.
Q. Would you say you’re in the absolute prime of your career? Also, how much do you think you can still improve?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I am. I am at the prime of my career. I’m going to try to use every part of this fact to stay where I am and to fight for as many, you know, major titles as possible.
I know that my career, as any other career, cannot go forever. I cannot stay in the top for, you know, so many years. I’m going to try to have longevity in my career through every day, let’s say, routines that I respect with my team, with preparations, recoveries, and of course consistently keep on motivating myself, finding that inspiration to play the sport in a high level.
Because I don’t play only for myself. I play for my family, friends, my country, you know, people around the world that support me. So it’s always in the back of my mind. It’s something that I basically attract from that a lot of inspiration to play and work hard.
I know that all this success that I make are not result of one tournament or a couple weeks of work. They are result of many years, you know, putting in these hours of practice and commitment.
So that’s the only way I can stay here. That’s the only way I can have many more years on this level.
Q. You mentioned, you know, the emotional roller coaster you go through. With a match like this, is it tougher mentally or tougher physically?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think it’s a little bit of both. You go through lots of emotions. You go through lots of challenges that you need to overcome physically and mentally.
But mentioned before the match, this is kind of the occasion that you work for. These particular matches, finals of one of the biggest events on the tour, that’s something that, you know, is kind of in the back of your mind that inspires you to work every day, wake up in the morning and run, jog, practice, put in hours on the court, because you want to put yourself in the position to do this, to fight for the titles against one of your biggest rivals.
So I don’t think that this these challenges that I go through and the pressures that I feel are actually harming me or actually something that I find difficult, that I find that is a burden on my back.
I find that it’s a privilege because I earned it. I earned this position to be in.
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