Djokovic kisses his trophy after defeating Nadal (Photo: Reuters)
Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic won the ATP Indian Wells title on Sunday, rallying to beat world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and improve his record this season to 18-0.
Djokovic, who took over the No. 2 world ranking by beating Roger Federer in the semi-finals, avenged a loss to Nadal in the 2007 Indian Wells final.
The 23-year-old Serbian has looked invincible this season and Sunday's victory in the California desert underlined that.
Djokovic fired four aces, including two key ones to hold serve in the second set, in the two-hour, 25-minute match to capture his second Indian Wells crown.
"I am having the best period of my life on the tennis court," Djokovic said. "I am playing with a lot of confidence. I'm feeling the ball well on the court. I'm very dedicated and I have a big will to win each match.
"So it will not stop here."
Djokovic took the second set in dramatic style, winning a marathon ninth game on the sixth set point after Nadal had saved five. The game, which lasted over 10 minutes, ended when Nadal hit a backhand wide in front of a near-capacity crowd of about 15,000.
It was part of a six-game win streak for Djokovic that stretched from the end of the second and into the third set and proved to be the turning point.
"I managed to hold that very important game and then I was on a roll," Djokovic said. "I felt that this is the time when I had to use my opportunity and step in and be more aggressive and take it to him, and that's what I did.
"It was just couple of points in the end of the second set that kind of turned the match around."
Nadal hit another sliding forehand into the net on match point, sparking a celebration from Djokovic, who clenched both fists, threw his head back and screamed at the top of his lungs.
Djokovic broke Nadal in the first game of the third set and cruised to victory from there. He hammered aces on the final points to hold serve in the fourth and sixth games.
Djokovic has compiled an incredible 18-match win streak this season and is 20-0 dating to the Davis Cup final in December. Besides winning the Australian Open this season, he captured his 20th career title last month in Dubai.
"I am extremely happy with the way I'm playing and with the success that I'm having," Djokovic said. "But I know that the season is very long and I don't want to be too euphoric about the win. I need to celebrate a little bit and then move on."
Nadal had his serve broken five times in the match, including twice at the beginning of the final set.
Nadal had a dreadful time controlling his serve, especially in the second set when he won just two points off his first serve the entire set.
"I was just thinking, 'Please put one in,'" Nadal said. "The serve was the difference today."
Two-time Indian Wells winner Nadal was on a blistering pace of his own this week as he came into the final having dropped just one set in the tournament.
But Sunday's loss leaves Nadal without an ATP title this season. His last victory came in Tokyo in October.
Nadal said he sees Djokovic as the main threat to his world No. 1 ranking.
"Djokovic is in the best position," Nadal said. "We will see what's going on during the clay season. After the first six months of the season we start to see what are the chances of everybody."