There is no stopping Novak Djokovic. The 23-year-old Serb maintained his remarkable unbeaten start to the year last night when he beat Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Masters Series tournament at Indian Wells in California.
Twenty-four hours after knocking out Roger Federer, a result that ensured he would overtake the Swiss to become No 2 in the world, Djokovic won his 20th match in succession to claim his third title of the year following triumphs in Melbourne and Dubai. He has not been beaten since losing to Federer in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in London last November.
Djokovic, who won the Indian Wells title three years ago, lost the first set against Nadal but recovered to win a high-quality contest after two hours and 25 minutes, breaking the world No 1 twice in the final set.
His 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Federer in Saturday's semi-finals had been his third successive triumph this year against the former world No 1. He had previously beaten him in the Australian Open semi-finals and in the final in Dubai. Federer, who has spent all but 11 weeks ranked at No 1 or No 2 in the world since November 2003, falls to No 3 in today's updated ranking list.
The 29-year-old Swiss, who later partnered his fellow countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the doubles final only to be beaten by Alexandr Dolgopolov and Xavier Malisse, said after losing to Djokovic: "I wasn't far away at all today, because I really had him going, but I guess he escaped. Confidence is a big thing for him at the moment."
Nadal had reached the final after coming from 1-4 down to beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-4. The Spaniard had lost his previous three matches against Del Potro, who has returned to action after almost a year out with a wrist injury and should climb back into the world's top 60 today.
Caroline Wozniacki strengthened her place at the top of the rankings in the women's final, beating France's Marion Bartoli 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 to win her 14th tour title. The 20-year-old Dane recovered from the loss of the second set to win after two hours and eight minutes. It was her second title of the year following her win in Dubai last month.