Novak Djokovic toppled a resurgent Rafael Nadal in straight sets Saturday and to reach the Indian Wells final, where he`ll be seeking a third straight and record fifth overall title.
The 28-year-old world number one from Serbia was the heavy favourite coming into the joint ATP and WTA Tour event and he showed why as he dispatched long time rival and nine-time French Open champion Nadal 7-6 (7/5), 6-2.
“Today the first set was decided by just one or two points,” Djokovic said. “The second set was very close and I played the last three games very well.
“I am glad I overcame this challenge, which is one of the greatest in sport, playing against Rafa.”
Djokovic improved to 21-1 this season and will square off in Sunday`s final against Canadian Milos Raonic, who beat Belgian David Goffin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
The women`s final is also on Sunday with Serena Williams vying for her first Indian Wells title since 2001 when she takes on former champion Victoria Azarenka.
Djokovic showed why he has been so dominant at Indian Wells, the hardcourt tournament in the California desert that he hopes this year will be a stepping stone to his first French Open title and a career Grand Slam.
Djokovic beat Roger Federer in three sets in the title match here the past two years, and now aims to surpass the record of four Indian Wells titles he shares with the Swiss.
Djokovic and Nadal have butted heads 68 times with Djokovic now holding a 25-23 edge, including winning 10 of the last 11.
“It could have gone either way but I managed to stay composed and serve well in important moments and just believed that I can win,” said Djokovic, who overcame an early break in the opening set.
Nadal, who will turn 30 in June, is also a multiple champion here having won three times in 2007, 2009 and 2013.
But the Spaniard had to work a lot harder to hold his serve for much of Saturday`s one hour, 58 minute match, spending almost twice as long as Djokovic in his service games.