Indian Wells: Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 to win his fourth BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, tying him with Federer for the most titles in the desert after winning for the second straight year.
The world's top two men's players met for the 38th time, second-most among rivalries in the Open era. Federer leads the series 20-18 and had won three of their last four meetings going into the final.
But Federer made too many mistakes at crucial times, piling up 43 unforced errors to 35 for Djokovic. The Serb connected on 63 percent of his first serves, while Federer's serve let him down. He double-faulted to trail 4-2 in the third as Djokovic won the last four games of the match.
Federer's serve had carried him earlier in the tournament, when he faced just three break points in his first five matches and he saved two of those.
“I was trying to really focus a lot on my serve because it was very important because he returns so well off the second serve,” Federer said. “He really plays everybody really tough when he returns off the second serve, and I think that's what also was tough today against him.”
Djokovic also won in three sets last year. He and Federer have combined to win eight of the last 11 titles in the desert, and they became the first two players to reach the final in consecutive years since the tournament began 40 years ago.
Simona Halep beat Jelena Jankovic 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the women's final, giving the Romanian the biggest title of her career and a WTA Tour-leading third tournament victory of the year.
Djokovic and Halep earned $900,400 each.
On his way to his 50th career ATP Tour title, Djokovic broke Federer once to take the first set. Federer rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the second set for a 5-all tie. They traded love service games to get into the tiebreaker, where Djokovic took a 5-3 lead.
Djokovic double-faulted twice in a row, setting up Federer's first break point. The Serb's backhand lob sailed long, allowing Federer to tie the match at a set apiece.
Federer then broke Djokovic for a 2-1 lead in a game that went to deuce five times before Djokovic netted a backhand. Federer was the clear favorite among the crowd of 16,988, although chanting Serbian fans at the top of the stadium made their presence known.
Federer held serve for a 2-all tie before Djokovic won the final four games of the match.
“You miss a couple of shots which you shouldn't and then maybe I didn't serve as good as I should have, and then that's all Novak needs,” Federer said. “Then he doesn't blink. It's pretty quick.”
Halep improved to 6-0 in three-set matches this year, smacking a cross-court forehand winner off Jankovic's weak volley return on match point. The world's third-ranked player advanced to the final when Serena Williams withdrew before their semifinal because of a sprained right knee.
“The first set was strange for me because I didn't play for three days. It's really tough to go straight to the finals,” said Halep, who hadn't played since Wednesday.
Halep continues her rise in the sport, having broken into the top 10 a year ago and being a finalist at the French Open and semifinalist at Wimbledon last year. The 23-year-old Romanian reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January.
“I have another title, my biggest title now, so it's amazing,” she said.
Jankovic won her biggest career title at Indian Wells in 2010. She was seeking her first tournament victory since 2013 at Bogota, but she couldn't hold a lead. She was up a set and a break in the second only to have Halep win two straight games and tie it 3-all.
Jankovic broke for a 5-4 lead on a smash and then was two points from victory on her serve in the next game, but Halep won the final three games of the set.
“At the end of the second set I got a little bit nervous,” Jankovic said. “I got a little bit tentative and that was my big mistake.”
Both players struggled to hold serve in the third set, when there were seven breaks. The 2 ½-hour match had 18 service breaks in all.
“I don't know how I won today because I didn't play my best,” Halep said.
Halep had a trainer work on her feet to start the second set. At times, she bent over and rested on court.
“I was tired a little bit and I had blisters only, so it's not that bad,” she said. “But still it's bothering you during the match, during the running. In the end of the second set I had muscle problems. But I didn't think about anything. I just wanted to fight and to get like to win every ball. Just this was in my mind.”
Jankovic committed 61 unforced errors and had nine double-faults, smiling wryly after her last one gave Halep match point.