INDIAN WELLS, California (AFP) – Serbia's Novak Djokovic continued his blistering pace this season by beating Roger Federer to reach the Indian Wells final and supersede the Swiss star as world No. 2.
Djokovic reached the final of the $4.5 million ATP Masters 1000 event by defeating Federer 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 Saturday to extend his match winning streak this season to 17.
|AFP - Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates a point during his match against Roger Federer of Switzerland, during their semi-final match at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells|
"I am playing the best tennis of my life," said Djokovic, who won the Australian Open in January. "It was a very close match. A lot of emotions. You could feel the intensity."
Djokovic, who won here in 2008, won 11 consecutive points in the third set to break open the match and post his third victory over 16-time major winner Federer in the past three months.
"My approach to the matches against Roger is maybe different than it was in the past two years," Djokovic said of Federer, who leads their overall series 13-9.
"Right now I kind of have more self-belief when I step on the court against him. Before it was, 'Let's hope that I can play well.'"
Djokovic moves to Sunday's final, where he will face world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-4 earlier in the day.
"I have played Nadal many times," Djokovic said. "I want this trophy as much as he wants it."
Federer is now 18-3 on the season with all three defeats coming at the hands of Djokovic, who clinched Saturday's victory on the second match point when the Swiss fired a forehand service return long.
With the win, Djokovic moved into the second ranking spot, dropping Federer to third.
"It makes me feel very happy. It's I guess the crown for my achievements this year," he said.
Djokovic, 23, hammered three aces in the two-hour, six-minute match in front of a near-capacity crowd of about 15,000 on the main stadium court.
The turning point in the match was when Djokovic blitzed Federer for 11 consecutive points in the middle of the third set to turn a 2-2 deadlock into a 5-2 lead.
Djokovic broke Federer's serve three times in the final set after Federer won the second set.
Federer got off to a good start in the second, breaking Djokovic in the third game as he hammered a stinging forehand down the line to go ahead 2-1.
Federer went on a run of his own late in the second, winning eight of the final nine points of the set.
Federer built a 30-15 lead in the final game of the second when Djokovic hit two straight balls into the net to drop the set and level the match.
Federer made some incredible shots that even had Djokovic applauding when he couldn't get to them.
In the second game of the third set, Federer scooped low for one ball at mid-court and returned it just over the tip of the net cord so it dropped where Djokovic had no chance and could only clap along with the crowd.
"He was going for the shots more today," Djokovic said. "The surface is slower than it was in Dubai when we played the last time and he was trying to use that kick serve.
"So we were testing each other."
But former three-time Indian Wells champion Federer also made some tragic errors, like when he double faulted on the last point of the fifth game in the third set.
He was up 40-15 with a chance to hold serve and make it 3-2 in his favor but instead the double fault cost him the game and gave Djokovic a 3-2 lead as he went on to win the final four games of the deciding set.
"That fifth game in the third set was crucial to make a break and then I played very solid," Djokovich said.
Federer was back on centre court just over an hour after his singles loss for a double's match with Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka.
Alexandr Dolgopolov and Xavier Malisse defeated Federer and Wawrinka 6-4, 6-7(5) 10-7 to win the men's final.
"I'm not a guy who's disappointed for a long time," Federer said. "Takes me half an hour and I'm all right, or 15 minutes sometimes.
"What is important for me is I know that I gave 100 percent out there. If I feel like the effort I put in there wasn't the best I could, if I could have done so many things differently and I didn't use those, then it would be very frustrating and disappointing. But it's not the case anymore for me."
Spaniard Nadal reached the final by snapping a three-match losing run to Argentina's del Potro.
Nadal, 24, blasted four aces and won 81 percent of his first serve points.
"I think I did well. I played a few good games," Nadal said. "I think he had a few more mistakes than usual. That helped me a little bit.
"But in general, I think I played my best match in Indian Wells this year by far."