ThrowbackTimes Indian Wells: Novak Djokovic downs Mardy Fish for first desert crown

After winning five ATP titles, including two at the Masters 1000 level, and almost 70 matches in 2007, Novak Djokovic was ready to chase even higher goals in the next year, still at 20. The Serb claimed the first Major crown in Melbourne and stayed behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal during the entire year after lifting trophies in Indian Wells, Rome and the Masters Cup. What he failed to do a year ago when Rafael Nadal halted him in the title match, Novak fixed on March 23 when he went all the way in Indian Wells to clinch the third Masters 1000 trophy, toppling Mardy Fish 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 in two hours and five minutes for the first desert crown. The American served at only 40%, doing his best to stay in touch with the better-ranked opponent and creating six break points, converting three of those to remain competitive. On the other hand, Novak earned the same number of opportunities on the return and grabbed five breaks to cross the finish line first, adding another notable title to his already impressive tally.

They had a similar number of winners, and it was Novak who tamed his shots more efficiently, reducing the number of mistakes and standing strong in the mid-range rallies that delivered the crown for him. The 20-year-old made the best start, holding at love in the opening game and moving 2-0 ahead when Fish sent a forehand long. Another good hold pushed Novak 3-0 up before facing the first troubles on serve in game five when the American created two break chances. Mardy needed only one to pull the break back, firing a deep return to force the youngster’s error and get back on the positive side of the scoreboard.

Novak Djokovic won his first Indian Wells title over Mardy Fish in 2008.

That didn’t last for long, though, as he hit a double fault in the next game to give serve away and allowed Novak to break him again with a backhand return winner for 6-2. The first break of the second set came in game six when Fish sprayed a forehand error, pulling it back in the very next one after a costly double fault from Djokovic to prolong his chances.

The momentum was now on the American’s side, who broke again at 5-5 after a loose backhand from Novak, taking a 6-5 lead and closing the set with a service winner a few minutes later to bring on the decider. Djokovic made one of the crucial holds in the opening game after fending off three break chances and stole Fish’s serve in the next one with a backhand down the line winner to forge the advantage. That proved to be the pivotal stroke of the entire final, with both players serving well in the remaining games. Novak sealed the deal with a service winner at 5-3, keeping everything under control behind the initial shot after that shaky first game and conquering what was already the third different Masters 1000 crown at such a young age.