For the second straight year Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic collide in the first Masters event of the season at Indian Wells.
After a rather unsettling Friday, things returned to norm on Saturday for the men’s semifinals. Djokovic got things started blowing out a hapless Andy Murray 6-2, 6-3 for his sixth straight win over the Scot.
Djokovic looked so comfortable out there in his footing and movement while Murray was having all sorts of issues, especially with that serve of his. If he’s to get back in the win column against any of the top guys, he’ll need to get that serve right.
“I wasn’t feeling sluggish,” Murray said afterward. “He didn’t make any errors. I didn’t serve so well today compared to how I served for the rest of the tournament. That would have been the difference between the matches that I played so far at this tournament and today is that I didn’t serve as well. I felt like this week I was playing a high level of tennis. Just today didn’t start as well as I would have liked.”
Murray falls to 17-8 against Djokovic and remains winless against the Big 3 since back surgery. But Miami is his second home where he’s won twice, so he can quickly get things turned around.
Djokovic moves on to his fifth Indian Wells final where he’ll face Federer once again after the Swiss expelled Milos Raonic 7-5, 6-4, slicing up the Canadian with an array of spins and power. Milos did well to hang in there, blasting that big serve of his, but I like how Federer’s moving, and Roger still hasn’t dropped serve in the event.
Still, with the Nadal win it was a very positive, productive event for Raonic.
“I felt good. I felt energetic. I felt like I had the right attitude put forward, and I was going to give it my all,” said Raonic. “I thought a few points here and there made a difference. I tried to put everything out there that I could, and the outcome was as is.”
So the final is set, chapter 38.
Roger Federer v Novak Djokovic
Djokovic won that final set breaker a year ago but Federer has since taken 3 of 4 including Dubai two weeks ago. However, that was on a much quicker court than what they play on at Indian Wells, which Raonic calls a “clay court”.
Roger does lead 20-17 and really he’s been the only guy who’s been troubling Djokovic on a regular basis the last few years. Maybe that’s because of Roger’s versatility and because, well, he’s Roger and he can change things up whenever and however he so chooses.
Djokovic, though, knows that.
“We all know that Roger, with all his records, we know the experience that he has. He’s not expected to play nothing less than his best in these stages of the tournament,” Djokovic said. “He’s been proving that. He won so many titles. He loves the big occasions, and I’m sure he’s gonna come out wanting to win, being aggressive.”
Federer will have to serve like has been, only better because Novak is at the other end of the serving spectrum than Raonic. And Roger will have to attack off the forehand, going for his shots when he gets them.
For Djokovic, dictate play off the ground, especially with the backhand down-the-line. And put in a high number of first serves.
“I think it’s very exciting for both of us, and also for fans, to see a rematch of the great final from last year,” said Federer. “I’m looking forward to it, and I hope I can keep up my good play.
“I think last year’s final was great. I think we both played very well… He’s tough, as we know. He barely misses. He moves great. He makes you go for the extra shot. [He’s] one of the great hard court players we have seen in tennis.”
So far this week, I have to give the edge to Novak. He’s just looked like the better player, both against Isner the other night and then today against Murray. And I think history repeats itself from last year.
The pick: Djokovic in three
The women’s final kicks things off at 2pm with World No. 3 Simona Halep against the surprising 2010 Indian Wells winner Jelena Jankovic – talk about a bracket buster with both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in the field!
Both players have had their struggles this week. Halep, who lost her cousin to a suicide at the start of the event, has had some shaky matches as has Jankovic who has played four three set matches.
“She’s a tough player, tough opponent,” Halep said. “I’ve played many matches against her and every one was really difficult. I know I’ll have to run a lot, hit the balls strong and be aggressive. I will have to stay focused for every ball, too, because she’s going to be fighting until the end.
“But I feel ready to play against her. I can win this title, but I expect a very tough match.”
And I like Halep here. She’s got the momentum and desire and she’s beaten the Serb in their last three.
ESPN2 has full TV coverage of both finals starting at 2pm. Enjoy the madness.
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