Playing their second match of the year against each other, the Indian Wells final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic went down to the wire.
By the time the 2014 edition of the BNP Paribas Open rolled around, some questions were swirling around the state of Novak Djokovic’s game. The world No. 2 had his three-year winning streak snapped at the Australian Open earlier in the year and followed that loss up with a semifinal defeat to Roger Federer in Dubai. At Indian Wells, Djokovic’s early form was suspect: He went to three sets in the third and fourth rounds, had a fairly easy time in the quarterfinals, and then went the distance again in the semifinals. He battled through, though, to make his first final of the year.
Parallel to Djokovic’s struggles through the draw, Federer had a much easier time. With Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray in the top half all going out before the quarterfinals, Federer took full advantage as he made it to the title match without dropping a set. Indian Wells was his third final in his first four tournaments of 2014.
Playing for the Indian Wells title was familiar territory for both players: Federer was going for his fifth triumph in the desert, while Djokovic was vying for his third. And at least one of them had played in the final seven of the previous 10 years.
It was Federer who struck first, winning the first set, 6-3, and running his sets-won streak against Djokovic to three, going back to their match in Dubai earlier in the year.
The Swiss kept up the pressure in the early stages of the second set. In the eighth game, though, Djokovic finally earned his first break point of the match. He broke, and then served it out to take the second 6-3.
All square now, it was Djokovic that turned up the heat early in the third set, as he broke Federer’s serve in the third game. They stayed on serve the next few games and Djokovic had a chance to serve out the match at 5-4. Federer, with his back against the wall, stormed back for an easy break, and the two remained on serve until the deciding tiebreak. By the time the first changeover in the tiebreak happened, Djokovic was up 5-1. Federer got it to 3-6, but it was too big an obstacle and Djokovic won it 7-3 to clinch his first title of the year.
Djokovic’s start to 2014 was quite atypical: 2006 was the last year he failed to win a title within the first two months of the season.
The Indian Wells final marked the ninth time Federer and Djokovic contested a title match against each other. Going into this match, their head-to-head result in finals was 4-4.