Novak Djokovic Tops the Past 10 Champions at Indian Wells
Things are definitely heating up on the men's tour as the players head toward the California desert and the BNP Paribas Open, a Masters Series 1000 Tournament.
Held annually at the picturesque Indian Wells Tennis Gardens, the setting features 12 courts laid out in the warm California sun. The site is beautiful—one of tennis fans' favorites. The premiere tennis tournament attracts the top players from the men’s and women’s tours.
The tournament’s roots go back to 1976, sporting numerous name changes as sponsors rose and fell.
The popular tennis tournament, however, had its beginning at its current Indian Wells locale in 1987.
Boris Becker won the inaugural men’s tournament at Indian Wells in 1987 defeating Stefan Edberg in the final, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
Following shortly upon the heels of the Australian Open, the one-two punch of Indian Wells and Miami, closes the early American hard-court season, ushering in the upcoming clay season.
To date, only three players in the tournament’s history have won the event more than twice–Americans Jimmy Connors (pre-Indian Wells), and Michael Chang who won the event in 1992 and then consecutively in 1996-1997.
Roger Federer is the only player to have won the tournament three consecutive times from 2004-2006.
The question looming on the horizon remains–who will win the men's single title in 2012?
2002: Lleyton Hewitt
2002 Pacific Life Open
In 2001, Lleyton Hewitt became the youngest player to be ranked No. 1, doing so at the age of 20.
Hewitt managed to finish the 2001 season holding on to the No. 1 ranking chiefly by winning the U.S. Open in New York City.
The Aussie used his tenacity and his pinpoint accuracy to great advantage against the lingering serve-and-volley players on tour. No one, however, out-hustled Hewitt on court.
At Indian Wells, Hewitt opened his campaign by defeating Carlos Moya 6-4, 6-4 in the first round.
In the second round the Aussie upended Andrei Pavel 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Jan-Michael Gambill was Hewitt’s victim in the third round and Thomas Enqvist his quarterfinal round conquest.
In the semifinals, Hewitt dispatched Pete Sampras 6-2, 6-4 and breezed past Tim Henman in the finals 6-1, 6-2.
The 21-year-old Australian barely broke a sweat in a final that looked far too easy.
At that point, Hewitt had won two of the three tournaments he entered in 2002. The Aussie won 34 of his last 38 matches in total.
Hewitt would go on to dominate on tour one more year before he being overtaken by the Swiss Roger Federer.
2003: Lleyton Hewitt
2003 Pacific Life Open
Australian Lleyton Hewitt, seeded No. 1, won the 2003 Pacific Life Masters Series Open at Indian Wells, but early on the Aussie had his hands full simply trying to advance to the next round.
Hewitt, who successfully defended the title he won the previous year, was nearly beaten in the first round of the tournament.
The Aussie fought off three match points against Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco before finally coming away victorious, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Hewitt was tested again in his third round match.
The Aussie needed three sets to dispatch Argentina’s Guillermo Coria 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.
Once Hewitt reached the quarterfinals, however, he began playing the type of tennis that propelled him to the No. 1 spot and allowed him to win his last three matches without dropping a set.
In the final match, Hewitt rushed past Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil 6-1, 6-1.
Kuerten had defeated the No. 4 seed Roger Federer in the second round 7-5, 7-6, but offered Hewitt little resistance in the final.
Hewitt’s victory marked the 19th career title for the 22-year-old Australian, who improved his 2003 match record to 15-1.
2004: Roger Federer
2004 Pacific Life Open
No. 1 seed Roger Federer finally battled his way through to win his first title at the 2004 Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells.
His opponent in the final was Brit Tim Henman, also hoping for his first Pacific Open championship.
The Swiss defeated Andrei Pavel 6-1, 6-1 in the second round, Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 6-2 in the third round and American Mardy Fish 6-4, 6-1 in the fourth round.
Henman got through Simon Larose of Canada, Alex Corretja of Spain, and Wayne Arthurs of Australia to work his way into the quarterfinals.
In the quarters Federer defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 6-2, 6-1 while Henman defeated the No. 3 seed Andy Roddick, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3.
Both advanced to the semifinals where Federer dispatched Andre Agassi 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Henman disposed of Iraki Ladbadze.
In the finals, Federer clamped down hard and never allowed Henman any margin for error.
The Swiss dominated on his own serve and pressed Henman to go for too much as the Brit tried to gain some advantage in the match.
Federer broke Henman in the fourth game of the first set and closed it out without looking back.
Federer secured breaks in the third and again in the ninth game of the second set to deny the Brit any hope of victory while the Swiss pounded home 12 winners, three aces and no double faults.
The win gave Federer his 14th career ATP title.
It was the Swiss’ first win over Henman and his first Pacific Life Open Masters Series trophy.
2005: Roger Federer
2005 Pacific Life Open
The No. 1 seed defeated the No. 2 seed in the finals of the Pacific Life Open in 2005.
The Swiss, in reaching the final, overcame American Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-3 in the second round, Gilles Muller 6-3, 6-2 in the third round and the No. 13 seed Croat Ivan Ljubicic 7-6, 7-6 in the fourth round.
In the quarterfinals, Federer met and defeated German Nicolas Kiefer 6-4, 6-1 before dispatching No. 14 seed Guillermo Canas 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals.
Then Federer met the Aussie Lleyton Hewitt in the final in a best-of-five format.
Hewitt had arrived in the final by dispatching the No. 3 seed Andy Roddick 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in the semifinals after getting a walkover when Andre Agassi withdrew before their quarterfinal contest.
Federer dominated Hewitt in the final 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 on the final Sunday of the event. He never allowed the Australian into the match.
Hewitt went for more than normal, trying to gain an advantage, but to no avail. While both accumulated 31 unforced errors, Federer countered his with 41 winners while Hewitt managed only 18.
Federer never lost a set during the week and stood on the year with a 26-1 match record.
Federer recorded his 17th straight final win, which at the time was a tour record.
It was the Swiss’ second consecutive win at the Indian Wells Tournament.
2006: Roger Federer
2006 Pacific Life Open
Roger Federer won his third consecutive title at the Pacific Life Open on Sunday March 19, 2006.
In the final the Swiss scorched his opponent, James Blake, 7-5, 6-3, 6-0.
The American came out strong in the first set breaking Federer twice. But Federer came back strong, taking the first set––weakening Blake’s resolve to win after that.
After breaking to lead 5-3 in the second set, Federer reeled off the next seven games as Blake's resistance finally crumbled.
The 24-year-old Federer extended his 2006 record to 22-1, his sole loss coming against Spain's Rafael Nadal in the Dubai final earlier in the month.
Federer’s road to the final included wins over Nicolas Massu 6-3, 7-6 in the second round and Oliver Rochus 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the third round.
In the fourth round Federer met and overcame Frenchman and No. 16 seed Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4.
The Swiss went on to defeat the No. 6 seed Ivan Ljubicic 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and Paradorn Srichaphan 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals before meeting Blake.
Blake had defeated Rafael Nadal in the semifinals 7-5, 6-3 to reach the finals but was powerless to defeat the Swiss on the hard courts at Indian Wells.
Crowning Federer champion was becoming a habit for the people running this tournament in the California desert.
2007: Rafael Nadal
2007 Pacific Life Open
After winning this tournament three times in a row, the No. 1 seed Roger Federer lost in the second round of Indian Wells in 2007 to Guillermo Canas, who got into the draw as a lucky loser.
It was a shock to Federer and to the tennis world, who had grown accustomed to the Swiss dominating the Pacific Life Open.
This opened the door for a new champion, and none other than No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal waltzed through.
Nadal had not found himself in a winner's circle since he won the French Open on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros in 2006.
On his way to the Pacific Life Open final, Nadal slammed the door shut on Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-3, 7-6 in the second round, Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-4 in the third round, and Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-1, 6-1 in the fourth round.
Nadal faced and defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 7-5, 7-5 in the quarterfinals and the No. 3 seed Andy Roddick 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals.
Nadal’s opponent in the final was the No. 12 seed Novak Djokovic.
The Majorcan dispatched the Serb 6-2, 7-5 to win his first Pacific Life Open Masters at Indian Wells by totally overwhelming the 19-year-old Serb.
The victory marked Nadal’s first win in nine months, ending a long title drought.
2008: Novak Djokovic
2008 Pacific Life Open
This tournament was known as the “Year of the Fish” because of the great run through the draw made by American Mardy Fish.
Prior to this tournament, the slumping Fish considered giving up tennis, but decided to give it one more try before hanging up his singles racquet.
The astounding Fish made it to final to face Novak Djokovic and finally lost, ending his “Cinderella” run one match short at Indian Wells in 2008.
Djokovic, who won the 2008 Pacific Life Open, defeated Andreas Seppi 6-3, 7-6 in the second round, Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-2 in the third round, and the No. 16 seed Guillermo Canas in the fourth round.
The Serb went on to defeat Stanislav Wawrinka 7-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and the No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
Ranked at No. 98 in the world, Fish, remarkably, had run over Florian Mayer, Igor Andreev, Nikolay Davydenko, Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian and Roger Federer to find himself standing ready to do battle on the final Sunday of this premiere tennis tournament.
In the final, Fish made a contest of it by coming back to take the second set, but Djokovic took charge in the third set to win his first Pacific Life Open 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.
Riding this victory after also winning the Australian Open earlier in the year, Djokovic seemed assured of a climb in the rankings.
2009: Rafael Nadal
2009 BNP Paribas Open
Rafael Nadal came back strong in the California desert to capture his second title at the 2009 Indian Wells tournament—now known as the BNP Paribas Open.
The Majorcan defeated Michael Berrer 6-2, 6-1 in the second round, Dmitry Tursunov 6-3, 6-3 in the third round, and the No. 14 seed David Nalbandian 3-6, 7-6, 6-0 in the fourth round.
Nadal had to fend off match points against him in the match with Nalbandian and felt fortunate to hang on for the win.
After surviving that match, Nadal found himself facing the No. 6 seed Juan Martin del Potro. Energized, Nadal put away the second Argentine he raced in a row 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
That brought Nadal face to face with the No. 7 seed Andy Roddick, whom he defeated 6-4, 7-6 in the semifinals.
In the finals the Majorcan met Scot Andy Murray, seeded No. 4, blowing him off the court 6-1, 6-2. The final was played in very high winds, which troubled the Scot immensely.
Murray had met Roger Federer in his semifinal, upending the Swiss 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. But the Scot admitted he did not handle the windy conditions well, crediting Nadal with a solid win.
After winning both the Australian Open in 2009 plus this Masters Series 1000 tournament in March, Nadal seemed well on his way to a dominating season of tennis.
It looked like that might happen until to French Open when Nadal was upset by Robin Soderling in the fourth round.
2010: Ivan Ljubicic
2010 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells
When the Indian Wells Tournament got underway in 2010, the odds favoring Ivan Ljubicic to win this title were prohibitive––the longest of long shots according to the bookies.
But Ljubicic, ranked outside the top 20, but seeded No. 20 at the Indian Wells tournament, defied the odds and man-handled his opponents on his way through to the final.
Ljubicic defeated Ryan Harrison in the second round, Brian Dubul of Argentina in the third round, and Novak Djokovic, the No. 2 seed, in the fourth round 7-5, 6-3.
Ljubicic found himself facing and defeating Juan Monaco in the quarterfinals 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. The Croat's next top-ranked opponent would be the No. 3 seed Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
Ljubicic won over Nadal, saving a match point 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.
In the finals the Croat faced American Andy Roddick, the No. 7 seed—defeating him in a thrilling match 7-6, 7-6.
Ljubicic slew some tennis dragons on his way to the final where he finally celebrated winning his first ATP Masters Series 1000 title.
The final itself featured two of the top servers in the game and did not disappoint those assembled on a Sunday afternoon watching the two duel it out.
The two finalists dodged bullets in the process, holding serve often against overwhelming odds.
The joy of Ljubicic winning pleased and thrilled the assembled crowd as the 31-year-old celebrated.
Note: Ljubicic has just announced that he is retiring from tennis next month.
2011: Novak Djokovic
2011 BNP Paribas Open
When Novak Djokovic arrived in California in 2011, ready to do battle at Indian Wells, many were still doubting his ability to continue to win.
Djokovic had won the 2011 Australian Open, following up that win with his second title at Dubai, defeating Roger Federer in the final.
In fact, the Serb had not lost a match since he fell to Roger Federer during the 2010 World Tour Finals in London in November.
In December, Djokovic joined with his teammates to secure Serbia's first Davis Cup championship.
Entering the tournament as the No. 3 seed, Djokovic dispatched Russian Andrey Golubev 6-0, 6-4 in the second round, followed by the elimination of always dangerous Ernests Gulbis 6-0, 6-1 in the third round.
His next opponent was Davis Cup teammate Victor Troicki, but Djokovic showed no mercy, sending his countryman out of the tournament 6-0, 6-1.
People were beginning to notice the lack of games won by Djokovic's opponents. In the quarterfinals the Serb met and defeated Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-4 propelling him into a semifinal match against Roger Federer.
Even though the No. 2 seed managed to win a set, Djokovic rebounded to win against Federer 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
That win meant a new No. 2 world ranking for Djokovic—Federer would fall to world No. 3 on Monday.
The next man facing Djokovic was world No. 1 Rafael Nadal. When Nadal won the first set, most assumed he would win the match. Djokovic, however, was not among them. The Serb charged back, winning the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The win sent the Serb's unbeaten streak to 20. It would not end there—the win streak lasted until the semifinals of the French Open.
Today, however, Djokovic is back at Indian Wells, ready to win his third title at the BNP Paribas Open in the California desert.
The Serb did not—it should be noted—repeat his championship in Dubai earlier this season.
The world is waiting to see if he can repeat his 2011 championship at Indian Wells.