Djokovic Defeats Federer in Classic Indian Wells Final

Unbelievable match. That’s the first thing I want to get out of the way. I thoroughly enjoyed this match despite another strange collapse from Roger after 40-15 and 2-3 in the third set on his own serve. Whether it was strange is debatable though. As far as I’m concerned it is just the type of player Roger is. It is not in his nature to grind matches out like Djokovic and Nadal. It doesn’t mean he is mentally weak either. In fact he is extremely clutch. It is just that it is not in his nature to endlessly grind out a match. He already achieved the impossible by coming from a break down in the second set to win it in the tie break. That is the first thing that must be acknowledged. It was very much like the fourth set in the Wimbledon final last year.

Roger showed immense heart and determination to win the second set. Make no mistake about it. Then in the third set he gets broken again in the opening game. And again he shows great fight and determination to break back. This time surely he won’t let Djokovic get away from him again. He also consolidates the break on his serve. Then at 2-3 he leads 40-15 and receives a short return from Djokovic. Clearly the best shot was down the line as he approaches the net as Djokovic was still in the deuce court, but for some reason he goes cross court and hits an inexplicable unforced error. Djokovic takes the invitation as he works himself back into the game and on break point Roger serves a double fault.

The collapse is complete and Djokovic doesn’t lose another game from there. Just like that, after all the hard work of the second set and breaking back in the third set Roger blows any chance of winning the match. Now, I have already said that this is just the nature of Roger. It is not even close to the first time we’ve seen this kind of collapse from Roger after bravely fighting his way back into the match. The first and most telling time it happened was against Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open final. There he fought his way back after trailing two sets to one to force a deciding set, only to collapse 6-2. The same thing happened at the US Open that year against Del Potro where Roger collapsed 6-2 in the fifth set.

It also happened against Murray at the Australian Open in 2013 when Roger bravely fought his way into a fifth set by winning the fourth set on a tie break. Again he collapsed 6-2 in the fifth. Against Djokovic the score was also 6-2 in the third yesterday. You can say something similar happened in the Wimbledon final last year too, even though the fifth set score was 6-4. Roger made the unreal comeback in the fourth set and then missed a crucial overhead to help Djokovic break in the fifth set and get the win. There are probably more examples but I think I have made my point. And my point is that Roger is not a natural grinder. He can only go against his nature for so long. Grinding out fifth sets is more in the nature of Djokovic, Nadal, and to a lesser extent Murray.

Roger just doesn’t have the relentless staying power that Djokovic and Nadal has. Whenever it goes to a deciding set against them they are usually the favorite. Especially on slower courts and over five sets. Indian Wells was on slower courts which turned things in Djokovic’s favor. In fact it looked like he would straight set Roger in no time until Roger finally found some inspiration at 3-4 and 15-30 on Djokovic’s serve when he played the most unbelievable defensive point I have ever seen from him. He broke back and suddenly after looking completely out of the match until then it was game on. They headed into a tie break where Roger was a break down twice after screwing up on drive volleys.

The turning point in the tie break came when Roger was trailing 3-5 and serving. An unbelievable rally ensued which Roger finally won after Djokovic dumped a backhand into the net. This point seemed to completely unnerve Djokovic as he double faulted on both his serves to trail 5-6 and virtually handing the tie break to Roger in the process. Simply unreal stuff. And that after Djokovic had already made two double faults during the set which were flat out chokes. So he double faulted no less than four times at crucial junctures, purely due to pressure. He was so unnerved by Roger’s unreal fighting ability that he could hardly take in fluids after the second set. His hand was shaking violently as he lifted the plastic bottle to his mouth.

Respect

Again that reminded a lot of the Wimbledon final when Djokovic was clearly being pushed to the limits going by his body language. It was just unbelievable drama and some of the highest quality tennis I have ever seen. And it was great entertainment. In the third set I really thought Roger was going to take it after breaking back in the third game and holding serve. At 2-3 and 40-15 he was looking like the fresher of the two. Right there I was backing him to pull off the most unlikely of wins against Djokovic on a slowish hard court. And then of course the complete collapse. It was disappointing no doubt but you just gotta accept that from Roger. Again, it is does not mean he is mentally weak. It just means he is not quite up there mentally with the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, Sampras, etc.

So you can say it is a slight flaw but he makes up for it in talent anyway. Once again the Djokerer rivalry did not disappoint and provided us with another gripping final. In the end Djokovic’s base line consistency and defense, along with the court surface proved to be one too many for Roger to overcome, but did he put up a fight. In the end the emotional toll of coming back from a break down in the second set and winning it on a tie break turned out to be too much to maintain his level in the third set. It caused the collapse after 2-3 and 40-15. But all credit to Djokovic for staying solid even after choking heavily in the second set. He is now equal with Roger for most Indian Wells titles on four.

Yes it’s s shame Roger is not in the lead at five titles now but if you are realistic the court surface favor Djokovic and he will probably get the record on his own too. Djokovic will go down in history as the best slow hard court player of all time while Roger will still be the greatest hard court player overall. So it’s no big deal. Djokovic is pretty much unbeatable on this kind of surface and Roger did amazingly well just to force a third set. Well the clay court season is next and Roger will take a lot of positives from Indian Wells I’m sure. He did as well as he could. At the end of the day it is all about Wimbledon after all and I still very much like Roger’s chances there this year. Looking forward to the clay court season though!

Let me know what you think.

Highlights:

Hot shots:

Full matchhttp://my.mail.ru/mail/malong89/video/_myvideo/30.html

Djokovic shaking: http://i.imgur.com/hPDGWXx.gif

Presser:

Posted in Indian Wells, Masters 1000.

34 Comments

  1. Ru-an, firstly I’d like to say that you are spot-on with the analysis as usual. As you said Roger had to defy all the odds in case he had to pull out the win. You said he was looking fresher at 2-3 40-15, but his 2nd serve was under severe pressure in that set. I mean he barely won 15% of his second serve points. It’s fairly reasonable to assume that Djokovic would find a way to break Roger eventually in the third set, even if Roger held to make it 3-3. Roger was never in the lead even at a single stage of the match. Finally Djokovic won 21 points more than him. At the end of the day it’s about which player remains consistent for most part of the match, and in this case it was undoubtedly Djokovic. Actually if you look at the stats, both players had negative winners to UE ratio. On this surface Roger just can’t match Djokovic from the baseline and so he had to go for more shots in the rallies to avoid long rallies, which was obviously the reason for that many UEs.
    Roger atleast took a set off Djokovic on a surface which suits Djokovic the best in both the finals there, but Djokovic couldn’t even take a set off Roger in Dubai and Shanghai. Basically he makes Djokovic earn the win and Djokovic himself knows this. The shaking of his hands during the break is itself a proof for it.
    Anyway I don’t think we should brood over this loss much. During his presser,Roger said that he would forget about this match in 25 minutes. It’s about time his obsessed fans start following his lead and not act like it’s the end of the world whenever he loses.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Nakul and spot on with your comment as well. The hard core Fedfans are pretty pathetic to be honest. There is nothing to regret about this match. It’s exactly like you say at least Roger takes a set off Djokovic when conditions suit him, whereas in Shanghai and Dubai Djokovic are made to look almost average. It’s a shame to see Fedfans so obsessed with Roger winning that they can’t even enjoy such an unbelievable match. I have nothing in common with those Fedfans and I have already made it clear on many occasions that they have no business here. This is for Fedfans who can appreciate good tennis first of all and who have the proper perspective.

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    Nakul Reply:

    The main difference from their meetings last year compared to this year is that this time they can only meet in finals. It’s going to be interesting in the clay season since I don’t think there has ever been a Djokerer final on clay. So hopefully Nadal falls in Djokovic’s half each time so as to make the Djokerer final a possibility. Who do you think has an advantage on clay? Or is it pretty much even for both the guys?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good point Nakul I also hope to see some Djokerer clay finals now that they are ranked 1 and 2. It’s an interesting match up on clay. As we know Roger moves very well on clay and he had that terrific win over Djokovic in the FO SF in 2011. Clay is extra slow and gives Roger some more time to use his vast variety. But we will see what happens of they meet. Hard one to call.

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  2. Hello! By the way I have enjoyed your blog for many years so this is my first blog response. I have followed Roger for a long time and I think that the reason for today’s defeat had a lot to do with fatigue as well.

    I think that the underlying advantage that Djokovic had, apart from him being younger than Roger and in his prime, and also playing on a slower high bouncing surface, was the fact that he played 1 match less that Roger to get to the final.

    On the other hand, Roger was playing his third match in a row in as many as 3 days and his 6th match overall in the tournament. Djokovic only had to play 5 matches to win.

    We saw what a day of rest did to Roger after he won against Sock – he dominated Berdych.

    So, all in all, what I conclude from this is that it will come down to getting the best schedule out of Roger for the remainder of 2015 if he is to have a chance to win big titles.

    He can no doubt hang and even beat Djokovic but he has to pick his spots and timing will be crucial, moving on. I have no doubt that if Roger had played 5 matches and Djokovic 6, this final would have turned out to be even more competitive and probably Roger would have won.

    That being said, it’s not the end of the world. I actually am looking forward to Monte Carlo now where with a proper draw and Djokovic beating Nadal, maybe Roger can take Novak there and win that Masters 1000 for the first time. That would be awesome as well… :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Hilda nice to hear from you and thanks for the blog follow. I am going to have to disagree with you about the fatigue excuse however. Unless you attribute all the other losses I mentioned to fatigue too, in which Roger is not fit enough since 2009. And I don’t believe that. Mental and physical go hand in hand but I would say it is first of all mental. People who haven’t played tennis on a serious level like I did don’t understand this. I am also tired of people making the fatigue response every single time Roger loses. They make it seem like he is already in a wheel chair. We are not talking about a five set match here. It was best of three and Roger had won all his other matches in straight sets! You make it sound like Roger is a complete physical weakling and that is just wrong. Never mind that he played the day before. He destroyed Berdych in no time and would have been fresh as a daisy in the final. Seriously this fatigue nonsense needs to stop right here. Enough is enough. He got beaten by the better player. End of story.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Correction he played Raonic the day before. That was a tougher match but he still won everything in straights and if he can’t even get through a tourney of 3-set matches how will he get through a slam?

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    Hilda Reply:

    Maybe you are right, Ru-an! In fact I really hope that that’s the case. To me it just seems that as of late, particularly since 2009 he has had periods where he would look so fresh and dominate some opponents, and then by the time the finals come around he is not as dominant. Maybe it is a natural thing since as the finals roll around, the opposition does become harder and harder. It is very difficult to point. I do agree with your observation that Roger has a lot of decider sets as of late. He has won some but always when the price is big he has lost them. I don’t want to go much into the painful past memory bank, but it is all there.

    What I do like is that this match is not the tell all of the season. What I mean by that is that if Roger has won, it wouldn’t guarantee that he would win Wimbledon, for example. And vice versa, just because he lost does not mean that he won’t either.

    What I do believe is that his scheduling has to be absolutely spot on. We saw last year how his over scheduling cost him the U.S. Open, for example.

    Perhaps we’ll never know whether playing Cincinnati right after Toronto (or playing Toronto prior to Cincinnati) was ever the right move.

    This year I see that Roger is putting a lot of emphasis on clay but I am worried about fatigue heading into Wimbledon.

    Monte Carlo is great. Then playing Istanbul – OK.

    But then playing Madrid and Rome back to back?!

    On the one hand, playing Rome seems more important because of the fact that he hasn’t won it.

    But maybe a smarter decision would be to play Monte Carlo, have a week off, play Istanbul and Madrid back to back, and have two weeks off coming into Paris fresh.

    Or maybe, play Monte Carlo, have a week off, play Istanbul, have a week off, play Rome, have a week off and play Paris.

    What I am trying to get to is that Roger should not overburn.

    Yes, in a Grand Slam, you don’t have much of s choice and you have to play two weeks straight. But precisely because of that, Roger should save his energy for the slams and not for the other tournaments. Obviously the ranking points matter a lot so we’ll see. But I think that if Roger picks up a lot of points in the Slams, he can afford to play less tournaments which for him should be the goal in order to extend his career to the max…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Right Hilda. Losing the IW final does not mean he can’t win Wimbledon, but winning IW couldn’t have hurt his chances. What I don’t understand is why Roger did better last year in the final than this year, because he was playing better in the run up. I thought he would win, but maybe Djokovic played better. I don’t wana see another Wimby final where Djokovic outlasts Roger over five sets.
    As for scheduling I agree. I don’t think Roger should play Toronto this year if he is playing Rome, but I think he said something about skipping Rome. He has an extra week of rest in the grass season though. I just don’t want him to tire himself out before the USO like he did last year. But yeah I think he said something about skipping Rome.

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  3. Greetings to you, Ru-an! Great analysis indeed of your blog to us all…thought it to be a dramatic tennis match between Roger and Djoko. What I enjoyed most was to see beautiful Mozart tennis from Roger…a treasure to keep.
    Looking forward to upcoming tennis matches with hope of another title for Roger.
    Also, looking forward to comments from Fedfans coming to your inspiring blog, Ru-an.
    Kindly,
    Dolores

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Dolores. Yes beautiful Mozart tennis and great fighting spirit. You can’t ask for more really.

    [Reply]

  4. Hey Ru-an,

    Thanks for a great summary of a great match. It was a dogfight till the end, and I was extremely pleased to see it. Roger did a tremendous job to come from behind again, to win a tiebreak (was that his first tiebreak win this year?) and play with such determination. I thought I heard an announcer say that Roger was also playing without a coach at this tournament (IW is a pretty big tournament to play ‘coach-less,’ isn’t it?), so I think his performance was even more remarkable for that.

    Both players made some strange errors, probably b/c of the immense pressure they kept each other under. And I tend to think the last set was ‘a little’ closer than the score indicates, as Roger had to play some risky shots late in the set since he was down in the score.

    And I think this kind of match when Roger gives his all is really good for him; I think it sets him up to perform better in coming months. His artistry alone wasn’t enough against Djokovic yesterday; he had to bring something from his heart.

    Do you think matches like this can help Roger to become mentally tougher? I really enjoyed your observation that Djokovic could scarcely take fluids after that tremendous point you showed above. I wish I could see him trying to drink afterwards!

    Maybe Roger can take some good lessons for future matches from this loss, and maybe the match will help him to see how to unbalance Djokovic, whose remarks after winning (“Tough luck Roger”) I thought were somewhat unsporting, and showed that he himself was still a little rattled. Djokovic was playing at his best yesterday, and I think he was almost astonished that Roger could ratchet up the intensity even further, and come right back after him. Suddenly Djokovic had changed from the pursuer to the pursued! That bothered him a lot when it happened at Wimbledon last year too.

    Of course the crowd seemed surprised and very pleased too, and Djokovic was definitely unsettled by all the support for Roger. The poor guy is one of the elite players in tennis history and may not get his due (but he probably does). However, the only way for him to get more crowd support is by acknowledging Roger’s greatness in his public remarks.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hi Joe. If you look below my post there is a link to a gif of Djokovic taking fluids and shaking. You must have missed it. And yeah this match was good for Roger going forward. He did as well as he could. And I think 4.0 is mentally tougher than previous versions. You didn’t see comebacks like the one at Wimby or IW before, or even the one vs Murray at the AO last year in the 4th set. Don’t remember if he was a break down there too. Might have been.

    [Reply]

  5. Hey Ru-an,

    Thanks, I did miss it; I thought it was part of the ‘Hot Shot’ video (which was incredible btw, and thanks for sharing. I remember how pumped I was to see it live, and it’s just as good on tape!).

    Here’s wishing many more great comebacks for Roger!

    Best,
    Joe

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    So many of my readers watching the action live. Jealous of you guys!

    [Reply]

  6. I’m trying to put my best face on this loss. I didn’t expect Roger to win this final because of the slow conditions. I was able to see in person Roger’s matches against Seppi and Raonic. I also was able to see two of his practice sessions and stand quite close to the action. Fed was playing absolutely beautiful and inspired tennis against baby giraffe, Milos. I hoped against hope he could beat Nole!

    Ruan, you listed a litany of matches where Roger inexplicably collapsed in the final set, usually losing the last set 6-2. This is agonizing to realize as a Fed fan, but MANY of these matches he should have won, had it not been foe these horrific and predictable collapses. Fed should have won the ’09 AO, he should have won the ’14 Wimbledon final.

    Roger knows he can’t outgrind Nole from the baseline. Djoker is just too damn solid. I was able to watch two of Nole’s practice sessions at Indian Wells, one against Robredo and one against some junior player. His speed is mind-boggling. The only player I’ve ever seen faster was Chang, and Chang was 5’8 with a low center of gravity. Nole’s movement is just incredible. He’s not as balletic as Roger and certainly hasn’t the classic and lovely game, but he’s damn impressive.

    I believe Roger loses these matches because he’s not as fit as he should be, despite the endless practice sessions in hot Dubai. He also chokes or can’t hold his concentration in the penultimate set. Seriously… if he can’t hang with Djoker over best-of-three, there is no way he can bag a slam at this stage. Disappointing loss again!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    That’s nice that you could see the live tennis Candace. Roger is not as fit as Nadal or Djokovic because he is not a base line grinder. He is mostly an attacking player who tries to shorten points. So I don’t expect him to be as fit as those two. I don’t think there has ever been or ever will be a player who is 10/10 in all areas of the game. I think it’s almost impossible. Roger is already 10/10 in talent. He is also very good physically and mentally. The only department where he lacks slightly is mentally. Take Sampras who wasn’t a grinder either but he had immense killer instinct. If Roger had that killer instinct he would be just about the perfect player. But again I don’t know if it’s possible to be perfect. As for bagging a slam I’m not so sure he can’t. I still think he can do it an Wimbledon. But who knows.

    [Reply]

    Kyle Reply:

    Personally, I think Fed is about as fit as can be for nearly being 34 and having played the insane amount of matches as he had. When he’s healthy his speed and agility is still very much there (not like it used to be, but still top 10 in the game IMO). The stamina not as much as before, but I think that really only shows in the matches with a lot of baseline grinding, like this final vs Nole.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Right Kyle Fed is still moving extremely well and still very fit for his age. It is not what it used to be but I think people blame too many things on his fitness.

    [Reply]

  7. Ruan spot on with Rogers last set collapses but I think its also because he has lot more on the line always than other opponents barring Nadull of course but he is a mental beast. I have seen that happen to some legends in other sports also like Indian Cricket legend Tendulkar. He also used to get so nervous in 90s because he had all the records like most hundreds etc on the line. And people used to say why dosent he just smash the ball like other players do. But on a brighter note i think these matches just add to the legend of Roger I mean the guy is 33 and still pushing the greatest slow hard court player to his limits. People are watching that. I think at this stage of his career its not all about winning. At 33 he is still competing with best rather than giving up like Borg or for that matter even Sampras. He is grinding against some of the toughest opponents in the history of the game knowing he wont be winning a lot of them. People know it is as impressive as winning everything under the blue sky when you are in your prime. And i think that will add to his legacy just as much as all those titles have.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I don’t think Roger have more on the line than the others but I agree that what he is doing is simply stunning. If there is any problem is it with his greedy and spoiled fans.

    [Reply]

    Vijay Reply:

    yeah almost cruel to expect him to win everything after he is five years past his prime.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Fedfans don’t like this but I have always said after Nadalfans Fedfans are my least favorite fan base. I am not talking about the Fedfans on this blog. They are mostly smart and balanced people. But I hate those Fedfans who are so self-absorbed and greedy that they can’t appreciate the work of greatness that is happening right in front of them. If you are so obsessed with a human being that you can’t appreciate the unreal tennis in front of you, win or lose, then you need to re-evaluate what you are doing.

    [Reply]

  8. Federer must definitely come up with a plan to be in peak form for Wimbledon. That means he shouldn’t play Rome I think so that he is fresh for every tournament from here on till Wimbledon !!

    [Reply]

  9. After watching the match, I agree on most points that Ru-an observed. The surface was simply way too comfortable for Djokovic and his fast footwork and defense made sure that Federer never really got any foothold at any time.

    Now that clay season is coming, I say let the games begin! The bull seems to be ready, and I am thrilled to see if Federer is up for the challenge.

    [Reply]

  10. Great post Ru-an thought is was a great match although Roger took sometime to really get into it. Congrats to Djokovic he did deserve to win. I wondered if Roger wasn’t dialled into the match straight away because he had had to focus so much on Raonic the day before, however even seeing him lose you still have to marvel at his will to try and win, fantastic from both.x

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thank you Elizabeth.

    [Reply]

  11. Nice analysis as usual.

    I’m not concerned about the suddenness of his collapse and, like you responding to someone else, don’t consider fatigue to be relevant. Unlike the defensive players like Murray who are often just staying in the point with neutral shots Federer goes for it so, in general, he’ll have both more winners and more unforced errors and much quicker points. Occasionally that will mean it all falls apart quickly. His comment about how he’ll forget it in 25 minutes is also good. It means he’s not afraid to lose so he will continue to play aggressively and accept the results, good or bad. Unlike a defensive player who can grind down opponents an offensive oriented player like Federer must be supremely confident without fear of losing. It has its disadvantages but it’s one of the main reasons so many of all nationalities love his style of tennis and it is also this style that has preserved his body allowing him to still be fresh at 33.

    As for Djokovic, yes he’s #1 and favourite to dominate the year and all, but he needs to sort out his serving on big points. Two times he’s double faulted on match point in the French Open final against Nadal and yesterday he had three in one tiebreak. For him to be so rattled like that in a tournament he’d already won three times that isn’t as important as a major is something his camp has to be concerned about heading into another high pressure showdown with Nadal at Roland Garros.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good comment Andrew. Djokovic’s serve is actually and improved shot that gets him many free points these days. It just falls apart under severe pressure like what Roger put him under.

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  12. Ruan,
    I’m disappointed that Roger lost. I really thought he is going win this.
    Anyway the streaks continue ie:-
    1) Every time he beat Seppi in the earlier round, he did not win the tournament.
    2) He still unable to beat Novak in Indian Wells

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I thought so too Mike. But in the end the court surface turned out to be the decisive factor.

    [Reply]

  13. See that Nadal is going to Queens this year before Wimbledon, at a real club…does this mean Halle is just a ‘Mickey Mouse’affair after all he had to say about taxes in the UK, guess the prospect of getting close to 17 is dangling before his eyes!

    [Reply]

  14. In this particular match I don’t think Roger collapsed – or, not in the usual way at least. He was competing so hard and using a lot of his energy to get back in the second set – and let’s not forget the match was very physical with a lot of taxing baseline rallies where Fed was stretching and on the defensive. Besides all that, Novak’s return just proved too formidable and that wore Fed’s game down as he couldn’t get the free points. When Nole gets that momentum on the return, it takes near perfect serving for him not to get it back, and midway through that 3rd, he definitely had it.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    That’s true Kyle Djokovic’s return is another thing that makes it hard for Roger because he doesn’t get the usual amount of free points from his serve. It may also cause his first serve percentage to drop which is something we have seen when his serve is under pressure. This happens on slow hc anyway. On faster courts it’s easier to get the free points on serve.

    [Reply]

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