World number three Novak Djokovic held off a fightback by American Mardy Fish to win the Pacific Life Open final 6-2 5-7 6-3 on Sunday and secure his second prestigious ATP title of the year.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates his win over Mardy Fish of the US during the men's final match at the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California March 23, 2008. [Agencies]
Two months after claiming his first grand slam crown at the Australian Open, the third-seeded Serb broke world number 98 Fish once in the final set before sealing victory in just over two hours.
"There is something in this desert air which keeps me going year after year," Djokovic, runner-up at Indian Wells 12 months ago, said in a courtside interview. "I am doing pretty good here.
"I also want to congratulate Mardy on a fantastic week. Obviously, his ranking is not good enough. He's a much better player than that and deserves to be ranked much higher."
Fish, ranked a career-high 17th four years ago, capped a remarkable week that featured three victories over top-10 players by stunning Swiss world number one Roger Federer in Saturday's semi-finals.
"This has been a tremendous week for me, definitely one I will never forget," said Fish, who won the last of his two ATP titles in Houston in 2006. "Yesterday was one of the best days of my life and this is my favorite tournament."
Djokovic made a fast start in the final, winning the first six points of the match and breaking Fish in the second game when the American crowd favorite hit a forehand long.
Although Fish broke back in the fifth, forcing a backhand error by his opponent with a searing forehand service return, he failed to hold serve in the sixth.
A protracted game featuring high-quality rallies ended when Fish pushed a backhand wide and double-faulted to trail 2-4.
The 20-year-old Djokovic held for 5-2 and again broke in the eighth when the American double-faulted to take the opening set in 35 minutes.
The second set went with serve until breaks were exchanged in the sixth and seventh games, the Serb throwing his racket in frustration after double-faulting for his lead to be pegged back to 4-3.
Fish, beginning to replicate the form he produced the previous day to stun Federer, piled on the pressure in the 11th before breaking when Djokovic netted a backhand.
That put the American 6-5 up and he served out for the set, levelling the match when the Serb blasted a backhand drive into the net.
Djokovic fought back from 0-40 down on his own serve in the first game of the third to hold and broke Fish in the second with a backhand winner down the line.
The rest of the set went with serve until the Serb fired his 10th ace of the afternoon for his first match point before sealing victory at the second attempt when Fish struck a backhand long.
(Agencies via China Daily March 24, 2008)