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Novak Djokovic holds off Roger Federer at Indian Wells

Indian Wells: World number two Novak Djokovic rallied to beat Roger Federer in a three-set thriller on Sunday to win the Indian Wells ATP Masters title for the third time.

Djokovic defeated Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) to add another title to those he captured in the California desert in 2008 and 2011.

Having gained an early break for a 2-1 lead in the third, Djokovic served for the match at 5-4 but was broken.

From there, they went to a tiebreaker that Djokovic dominated.

Federer sent a backhand long on the first point of the breaker, and Djokovic seized a quick 3-0 lead with an overhead smash off a lacklustre Federer lob and another errant backhand from the Swiss.

“I think I played a good game to break back,” Federer said. “Got the first serve returns back, and then played well from the baseline.”

He said playing into the wind likely made it harder for Djokovic to serve it out, but then the Serb had the wind with him for the first six points of the tiebreaker.

“He took advantage of that,” Federer said. “So it was an interesting end to the match, no doubt.

“I think he played well. At the end, he made sure he kept the ball in play and I might have made a few too many errors when it really mattered.”

Federer saved one match point with an ace, but Djokovic ended it on his first opportunity on his own serve when a Federer backhand found the net.

A break of Djokovic’s first service game in the match for a 2-0 lead was the only opening Federer needed to take the first set in 31 minutes. He put 74 per cent of his first serves in play and didn’t face a break point.

The second set was tightly contested, and it wasn’t until the eighth game that Djokovic mustered the first break point of the set.

Federer saved it with a service winner, but a mishit forehand on the next point cost him the break and Djokovic confidently served out the set.

“Today was an incredible match, an incredibly difficult match,” said Djokovic, who denied Federer an unprecedented fifth Indian Wells title to go with those he won in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012.

The 32-year-old Federer was trying to become the oldest player to win a Masters title since a 34-year-old Andre Agassi won at Cincinnati 2004.

Instead, Djokovic claimed the 17th elite Masters title of his career and his first trophy of 2014.

In the 33rd career meeting between the tennis heavyweights, Djokovic avenged a loss to 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer in the semi-finals last month at Dubai.

Federer beat Djokovic for the first time in 18 months in the semi-finals en rout to his first title in nine months in Dubai and the Swiss great will rise from eighth to fifth in the world on the strength of reaching the final here.

RESULTS (All finals)

Men: Novak Djokovic (SRB x2) bt Roger Federer (SUI x7) 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3)

Women: Flavia Pennetta (ITA x20) bt Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x2) 6-2, 6-1