INDIAN WELLS, March 21- 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, two to hold serve in the third set, in the two-hour, 25-minute match to capture his second Indian Wells crown.
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.
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.
"I lost today, but I lost to one of the greatest," Nadal said.
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 where he won two singles matches. Besides winning the Australian Open this season, he captured his 20th career title last month in Dubai.
Two-time Indian Wells winner Nadal was on a blistering pace of his own as he came into the final having dropped just one set in the tournament.
Sunday’s loss leaves the world No. 1 without an ATP title this season. His last victory came in Tokyo in October.