Djokovic rallies for Federer win
Novak Djokovic banished the doubts that had crept into his mind with victory over Roger Federer to win his first title of the season at the BNP Paribas Open.
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The Serbian arrived in Indian Wells without a title for the first time since 2006 and was taken to a deciding set in three of his first five matches.
Question marks about his form and mental state persisted when Federer won the opening set and then broke back when Djokovic served for the match in the decider.
But he regrouped to force a tie-break, which he dominated to win 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7/3), collecting a crystal trophy so heavy he could barely lift it and a cheque for US dollars one million.
Djokovic said: "Considering the fact that I came into the American hard-court season without a trophy, the first time in many years, it was a different feel.
"I knew I was playing well on the court, but not winning a title and coming here, there were certain doubts.
"I had ups and downs in my concentration in the opening rounds, but I managed to stay mentally strong and have that self-belief. I carried that all the way through to the title.
"That's something that definitely makes this title very special to me, and it's going to mean a lot for what's coming up."
Djokovic saw his three-year winning run at the Australian Open ended by Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals while he was then beaten by Federer at the same stage in Dubai a fortnight ago.
Those were his first two tournaments working with new head coach Boris Becker, but it was long-time coach Marian Vajda who was in his corner in California.
Vajda has taken a back seat and will only travel to certain tournaments, and the jury is certainly still out on whether Djokovic and Becker will be a successful partnership.
The world number two said he had been in frequent contact with the German, but added: "Marian is definitely somebody that knows me so well, and I won every title in my life with him.
"We have been working together for eight years, and he's been more than just a coach to me. He's a great support, a mentor, an older brother, a father, whatever you want to call it.
"We have a great relationship. He knows me very well. And Boris is new to our team, so it's still a process of getting to know each other.
"People of course always question if Boris should be there or not be there now that Marian, the first tournament he won the title with me, and Boris didn't do that in Australia and Dubai.
"But it's the start of the season. We are all working together as a team. It doesn't make any difference now. Boris is the head coach and Marian respects that, I respect that, and we hope for success."
The result brought to an end Federer's winning run of 11 matches, but the disappointment was tempered by the contentment he is feeling about his game.
It was in Indian Wells last year that Federer hurt his back, and physical problems led to a loss of confidence that contributed to his worst season for more than a decade.
The 32-year-old, who will climb back to number five in the rankings, said: "You could be very disappointed after a match like that because you put in a lot of hard work, and walking away without the trophy, being a few points from victory, is tough.
"If you see the angle that last year was difficult, especially in Indian Wells, that I'm able to turn it all around now and I'm really playing nice tennis, then it's maybe sometimes a little easier to lose this way.
"Because I really did believe I was playing good tennis, it was a solid match. It was good also movement-wise. My serve was around. It was overall a good performance.
"I'm actually very happy with the tournament."
Federer skipped the tournament in Miami last year and has not yet committed to playing in Florida next week.
He said: "I'm going to leave tonight to Miami, and then I will see how I feel over there. But I will definitely go to that direction and most likely I will play."