16 March 2014, and here it is.The first masters 1000 series final of the year. Federer and Djokovic are to contest in this highly exciting and entertaining final clash. Both of these men had to overcome their puzzling opponents in the semifinals. Federer gave Dolgopolov a masterclass,overwhelming him by a score line of 6-3, 6-1. Federer never gave Dolgopolov a chance to make a lasting impression in the match. From the beginning to the tail end, Federer looked absolutely unbeatable. He broke Dolgopolov at 3-3 in the first set and took the set easily. Then he began breaking Dolgopolov again in the second set, and eventually won the match. This victory gave Federer his fifth final here and third final out of four tournaments he has played this year.
Djokovic had to sweat it out against Isner eventually prevailing 7-5, 6-7, 6-1. This victory gave Djokovic his first final of the year. Djokovic started strong and won the first set against Isner. But the towering American forced a tiebreak in the second, eventually taking the second set. But in the third set, Djokovic took total control of the match, switching gears and thrashing Isner in the last set – setting up a final clash with Federer.
If Federer were to win the final, it will send him to the world no. 4 ranking, giving him his 79th career title, 5th Indian Wells Open title and 22nd masters 1000 title. The Swiss legend is on an unbeaten winning streak of 11 matches and is yet to drop a set in this tournament. The victory in the finals will also give Federer his second title of the year and first masters1000 title since the 2012 Cincinnati Open.
But if Djokovic is to win the finals, He will earn his 17th masters 1000 trophy, 42nd career title and first title of this year. This is Djokovic’s first final of the year. He will stay on number 2 ranking. A win should give a boost to his relatively poor season he has had this year and will help him take his coaching relations with Boris Becker to new and better heights
This will be the 33rd meeting between Federer and Djokovic.Federer leads 17-15 in their rivalry. Their last meeting came in the semifinals of last month’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis championships where Federer registered a victory over Djokovic in three sets. Djokovic was leading by a set but Federer turned the tables on him instead and won the match.
The last time Federer and Djokovic played each other in finals of a masters 1000 tournament was back at the 2012 Cincinnati open where Federer edged Djokovic 6-0, 7-6. Their last two meeting at any stage in a masters 1000 series came in the 2013 Paris Open where Djokovic edged Federer in three tight sets.
Their last meeting at the Indian Wells came in 2011 where Djokovic beat Roger in 3 sets. But this is 2014 and anything can be expected out of both the legends of the sport. The match is sure going to be a roller coaster ride for the tennis fans, as is often the case when the Big 4 players play against each other.
PREDICTION: Federer is playing some of his best tennis – definitely his best tennis in the last year. Djokovic has been up and down, but seems to be finally hitting top gear. I pick Federer to win in three sets because lately he has been playing some inspired tennis and is in the kind of form that makes the Federer nation swoon and sway. He has played a relatively better tournament than Djokovic, he hasn’t dropped a set as yet. Also he holds a ltiny advantage over him because of his come-from-behind win at the Dubai Open. Another factor is that Djokovic has played a tight match yesterday so there might be chances of fatigue caused to him. Should Federer lapse mentally as he has been doing in the past few years and fail to maintain his lead, expect Djokovic to build enormous pressure on his opponent. If that happens, it may be tough for Federer to bounce back.
Djokovic’s winning strategy would be to tackle Federer from behind the baseline and prevent Federer from keep the rallies short and extend them so that he can impose his strength – the clean and efficient ground strokes. We can be sure that Djokovic won’t let the opportunity go away so easily and will give all what it takes to beat Federer. Federer will be expected to impose his game as he usually does and give a tough time to Djokovic. All said, Federer will win this clash titans and inflict Djokovic’s 3rd loss to a Swiss player this year, in 3 entertaining sets.
This match-up is a great way to conlude the 1st Masters 1000 of the season on a surface which has been dominated by these 2 Champions of our game. Get the popcorn ready and let the shot-making unfold!
-Vishakha Khandelwal [Vishakha is a Tennis Analyst for Sportz Cosmos. You can reach her at the gmail id : sportzcosmos]