Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic clash in the Indian Wells desert
So the first of the Masters Series events is almost at an end, with only the final left to be played. The tennis this week has been far from becoming an oasis of excellence, but in Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic reaching the finals, we have the two best men clash for the desert title. Between the two of them they own a whopping 25 Grand Slams and 43 Masters Series titles. The manner in which they dealt with Milos Raonic and Andy Murray in the semis underlined their hunger for more.
Deep rooted consistency
The match will not lack in pedigree or history, with the two gladiators having battled each other several times with the stakes running high. But for the London walkover last year, this would have been their 39th meeting - Federer leads the rivalry 20-17, discounting the London loss. The Swiss player was a 6-3, 7-5 winner in Dubai when they dueled for the title earlier this year.
Many miles away and a month later, Djokovic will look to avenge the loss and regain desert supremacy by claiming his 21st Masters Series title. Given Djokovic's consistently powerful ways this week, Federer has his task cut out. The Serbian has been a class above the rest this week and is looking set to retain the crown he won last year by defeating Federer in three hard sets. As incredible as it might seem, it is a full eight years since Federer and Djokovic battled for a Masters title - not much has changed since the former won the Montreal title in three sets.
The astonishing consistency with which Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have dominated the field for the past decade have left them foraging for crumbs most of the time. Murray voiced his angst while reflecting on his loss to Djokovic.“The guys that are ahead of me just now that I’m competing with,” said Murray. “Their consistency is pretty much unheard of. Very few players have ever been able to do what they have. So unfortunately, I end up getting questioned about why I haven’t done as well in the Slams or haven’t done as well in the Masters Series.”
It is easy to empathise with those thoughts of Murray, but with marriage round the corner, the Scot could do some clearing of the head and a dose of optimism. Meanwhile, this evening we can ready ourselves for a fitting finale to the first of the big events outside of the four majors. The two camps of Djokovic and Federer have all the information they need to prepare for the match.
Djokovic's keys to the match
The Serb has worked on his game and body with the diligence of a monk. In the past few years, Djokovic has practiced a regimen of physical and dietary discipline that could put even an ascetic in the shade. The results have been all too evident with the World No.1 gaining near complete dominance over hard courts. Against Federer, Djokovic will look to combine his powers of speed and endurance to impose his game on the fluid Swiss.
The Serb will look to bear upon Federer with his massive backhand pushing the veteran as deep into the corners as possible. Djokovic will rely on his speed and agility to counter Federer's serve, drawing him into attritional rallies. With Federer resorting to an attacking game, Djokovic will also need his forehand down the line to try and pass the maestro and prevent him from taking control of the forecourt.
Federer's keys to the match
Federer has decided to give Miami a miss, so this match will be his last on a hard court this spring. Given that he has shown some nimble footwork this week, Federer will need to find some good rhythm on his serve very early in the match. Any early stutter could prove very expensive, given Djokovic's domineering ways. The Swiss will depend heavily on his serve and forehand, two of his natural strengths. But the biggest key to Federer's success tonight will rest upon his ability to protect his backhand corner.
While his incredibly quick responses despite his advancing years might be adequate against lesser opponents, he will need more than his feet against Djokovic. Federer will have spent some time honing his slice in the lead up to the finals. He will need the slice to work like a charm this evening if he has to overcome Djokovic. It is a shot that can deprive pace to his opponent and take some sting off the backhand from Djokovic. This will be vital for Federer, if he has to successfully end rallies by advancing to the net. We are set for a terrific final, irrespective of who comes out on top this evening. Expect another three set thriller, for Federer hasn't lost a set since the Australian Open, but by the same token, Djokovic is far from ready to cede his crown.