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Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells final

Novak Djokovic
Djokovic beat Nadal in a final for the first time in six attempts

By Piers Newbery

Novak Djokovic proved he is a real threat for the world number one spot with victory over Rafael Nadal in the BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells.

The Serbian, who guaranteed the number two ranking by defeating Roger Federer in the semis, beat Nadal 4-6 6-3 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes.

Djokovic, who won the Australian Open in January, remains unbeaten in 2011 following his 18th victory of the year.

He moved up to second in the rankings - behind Nadal - on Monday.

And after defeating the Spaniard in a final for the first time in six attempts, he will surely have his sights set on overhauling him for top spot soon.

Sunday's final was a pulsating encounter from the outset, with the feeling of a Grand Slam clash, and both men were keen to stamp their authority as early as possible.

For me, you are the greatest player ever and a good friend so I wish you good luck

Novak Djokovic

Nadal had the first chance at 2-2, 0-40, but four break points went begging as he appeared to get edgy at the key moments, before he finally converted his fifth oppportunity.

Djokovic, bristling with intent, hit back straight away with a spectacular backhand cross-court winner and a forehand up the line to make it 3-3, only to then slip behind again with the first really loose game of the day.

Nadal was able to keep Djokovic at bay as he served out the set and it was now a question of whether the Serbian, who had not suffered a defeat since losing to Federer in London four months ago, had the energy to come back.

The second set was a desperately tight and tense affair, with both men producing spectacular winners and plenty of errors under pressure too, but it was Djokovic who edged it with two breaks to Nadal's one.

The Spaniard's serve let him down as he made just 25% of first serves and, despite hitting back immediately after slipping 4-2 behind, Djokovic made it three successive breaks and then levelled the match in a gripping ninth game.

History suggested that Nadal would be the stronger in the closing stages but he began the decider with a poor game, finding the net with a smash and hooking a forehand wide to drop serve again.

If Nadal was wilting, Djokovic was getting stronger by the minute, and he swept into the net to angle away a confident forehand volley for 2-0 before the pressure told once again on Nadal's serve and he was broken for a fourth time in succession.

With Djokovic in this mood, a double break proved an impregnable lead, and he showed no sign of the nerves that once afflicted him at key moments as he saw out the match with another confident service game to love.

"I want to congratulate Rafa on a great tournament," Djokovic said afterwards. "He had to lose but he has started off the year very well.

"It's always a pleasure to play you. For me, you are the greatest player ever and a good friend so I wish you good luck."

Nadal responded: "You started the season fantastic so all the best for the rest of the season. Well done. I lost today but I lost to one of the greatest."

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see also
Djokovic wins to overtake Federer
19 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Semi clash for Djokovic & Federer
19 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Nadal works hard to beat Karlovic
18 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Bartoli battles into semi-finals
17 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Injury forces Clijsters pull-out
16 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Nadal defeats qualifier Sweeting
15 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Federer beats Andreev in opener
14 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Clijsters & Jankovic ease through
11 Mar 11 |  Tennis
Watson and Keothavong knocked out
08 Mar 11 |  Tennis

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