With a dominant showing in the 2014 Indian Wells quarterfinals (as reported by Eurosport), ATP World No. 2 Novak Djokovic looks set to do something he has yet to do in this calendar year: Win a title.
WINNER! Novak Djokovic reaches Indian Wells last four in straight sets win over Julien Benneteau pic.twitter.com/2pvHVP8NHl— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) March 14, 2014
For most players, going without a title for the first two months of the season wouldn't seem like such a big deal. But Djokovic isn't most players. In fact, 2014 marks the first time in four years the Serbian is yet to win a title this late in the season (according to the Associated Press, via USA Today).
Djokovic has set some lofty standards for himself with his performances over the last four years, and people have come to expect the impossible from the six-time Grand Slam winner.
During a press conference in the run-up to Indian Wells, Djokovic acknowledged the odd feeling of not having won a single title so far this season, but he claimed he still had some of his confidence left, as reported by the ATP's official website:
It's a different feel, definitely.
I won the Australian Open title three consecutive years and that has significantly affected the confidence level in the start of the season and all the tournaments that were following up. This year it's not the case.
But, again, I have still a lot of confidence because I'm playing well. I'm feeling good about myself. As I said, when you work hard and when you trust your instincts and you have that self belief on the court, the results will come.
One big loss too many appears to have eroded Djokovic’s confidence to such an extent that, against Federer, the Serb simply did not trust the basic foundations of his game.
Simple groundstokes flew long or into the net, and on the biggest points Djokovic was at his most shaky.
Such aberrations would have been unthinkable in 2011 or 2012, when he was unquestionably the best player in the world and even had the mental edge over Rafael Nadal.
The Serbian former World No. 1 clearly isn't in the same place mentally as he was at this point of the season in previous years, but a title win at Indian Wells could change that.
With Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray suffering early exits, the road to a tournament win is wide open for Djokovic. And as fate would have it, everything points to another meeting with Federer in the final.
Winning a rematch with Federer and securing his first title win of the season would be the ultimate confidence booster for Djokovic.
The Serb can't look past his semifinal bout with John Isner, as the American has taken two out of their six battles (as per the ASP's official website) and will be playing in front of a home crowd in California.
But with Djokovic finally putting together a solid performance in his quarterfinal win over Julien Benneteau (he never faced a single break point), it looks like the two-time winner is regaining some of his swagger at just the right time.
Hoisting the Indian Wells trophy for a third time would complete the process and set up Djokovic for the remainder of the 2014 season.