Roger Federer may be in denial but the majority of the tennis population isn’t. Right now Novak Djokovic is better than Roger Federer. Djokovic proved it for a third time yesterday in a patchy three set 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over Federer in the Indian Wells Tennis Masters semifinals.
Djokovic, who has now won his 19 straight matches including all 17 this year, will play Rafael Nadal in today’s first Tennis Masters final of the season. Nadal overcome an early 3-0 deficit to deny Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 6-4.
“It was a very close match, so up to the last point you really couldn’t say who’s gonna take the win out of today’s match,” said Djokovic who had lost just 12 games entering the semifinal. “A lot of emotions. You could feel the intensity and I guess the pressure with both of us. I made some double faults on break points, as well as he did in the next game. I guess that fifth game in the third set was crucial to make a break, and then I played very solid.”
While Federer still has a sizable edge in their series 13-9, Djokovic has won the last three meetings – all this year – losing just one set.
“I had my chances today in the singles,” said Federer. “I thought it was a good match, played at a high level. I know I wasn’t far away at all today, because I really had him going. But look, I guess he escaped. I guess confidence is a big thing for him at the moment. I’m sure it’s gonna be a good final tomorrow.”
Escaped? Sorry Roger, I disagree. Novak didn’t escape. He’s just that much better than you. And what’s scary is that I thought Djokovic didn’t play that great while you played pretty well! Yet you still lost.
“I don’t know if I’d rather lose against three multiple different guys ranked outside of the top 50,” the Swiss added. “I guess not. I’d rather lose against a guy that’s ranked very high so I know I’m controlling the rest of the field against top guys. If I’m playing well, I know I can beat them, too. So that’s what it is. At the end of the day I can’t change it, and I’m happy with my game.”
As I said Roger, you were playing well but you still lost. Maybe your best isn’t good enough anymore?
To add further insult, Federer and partner Stan Wawrinka lost in the doubles final to Xavier Malisse and Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4, 6-7(5), 10-7. So Fed loses not once but twice on the day and he surrenders his No. 2 ranking to Djokovic.
As for the final, Djokovic and Nadal have played some incredible matches through the years. And rightfully many suggest that Nadal v. Djokovic is the this decade’s tennis rivalry. The two play long, grinding, physical matches and I expect Sunday’s showdown to be no different.
“I have played Nadal many times, and many times in the late stages of the tournaments, especially in the semis and finals of the major events,” Novak said. “I know how it feels like to be in the big stand or how it feels like to play him, so I will be prepared. I want this trophy as much as he wants it, so we’ll both step into the court tomorrow wanting that win.”
Nadal leads 16-7 (winning last two) and is a perfect 5-0 in finals against Novak. And like Djokovic, the Spaniard has his own streak – he’s 16-0 in odd years at Indian Wells.
“It was really important for me,” Nadal said after beating Delpo. “I think I played my best match here at Indian Wells. To come back and play the final in this tournament is fantastic for me. I needed a match like this to get the right rhythm and right feeling.”
And while Novak has been playing near-untouchable tennis all season, there are some signs that he’s coming back down to earth. We saw cracks against Richard Gasquet on Friday and more evidence of erosion yesterday. But I think the Serb will have just enough “magic pixie dust” left to squeeze one more title out of this career run he’s on and beat Rafa.
While I’ve taking shots at Djokovic for many years, I’ve always said the kid’s had an incredible game with unlimited potential, that is if he could only put his physical issues behind him and get it right between the ears. Well, he has.
For two-time Indian Wells champ Nadal, in my mind he’s been more the beneficiary of a cushy draw than strong play. He did indeed play his best tennis of the week yesterday beating Del Potro, but I don’t think he’s at the level we saw him at the last year when he beat Djokovic in the US Open final. Rafa’s serve isn’t what it was during his NY run and that lethal forehand is producing far too many errors.
So I’m staying with Djokovic to win today in straight sets.
There will be little time for celebration today as both players are scheduled to play again Monday in a special exhibition in Bogota, Colombia.
The match begins at 4pm ET after the women’s final between Caroline Wozniacki vs. Marion Bartoli. ABC will have coverage of both matches live starting at 2pm ET.
SUNDAY INDIAN WELLS SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 start 11:00 am
 C Wozniacki (DEN) vs  M Bartoli (FRA) – WTA – SINGLES FINAL
Not Before 1:00 PM
 R Nadal (ESP) vs  N Djokovic (SRB) – ATP – SINGLES FINAL
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