INDIAN WELLS, California, March 19 – World No. 3 Roger Federer beat John Isner 7-6 (9/7), 6-3 in the Indian Wells final to capture his third tournament in a row and a record fourth Indian Wells title.
Federer has been battling a flu bug all week and said he was close to pulling out. It limited his practice time early in the event but he said he was feeling much better after beating American 11th seed Isner.
“Sometimes just have to play a bit sick,” said Federer, who earned $1 million for the victory. “I am happy to come through at the end. It makes me really happy beating the best.
“I’ve really played amazing these last three matches in particular. I couldn’t be more happy. They were really great wins.”
One of the hottest players on the ATP Tour, Federer has now captured three consecutive events after winning back-to-back finals in Rotterdam and Dubai.
The Swiss star’s fourth Indian Wells title is one more than the old mark he had shared with Jimmy Connors and Michael Chang.
He clinched Sunday’s contest on the first match point when Isner smacked a forehand into the net.
Federer’s road to the finals included wins over hard-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, Brazilian No. 1 Thomaz Bellucci, former US Open champ Juan Martin del Potro and Spanish rival Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.
“Honestly, I never looked one match ahead of me,” Federer said.
“I thought del Potro was going to be extremely difficult. Once I got through that one, I only thought of the Nadal match.
“So for me, maybe mentally because of what happened, it was a bit of an easier tournament.
“I played with an attitude that I can only win here. I don’t favor myself because I have not felt great. It would be a surprise to come through.
“That’s how it feels now. I was able to come through, and so convincingly at the end is amazing. I’ve really played amazing these last three matches.”
Federer also avenged a loss to Isner earlier this year in Davis Cup play.
On Sunday, Federer and Isner held serve in the second set until Federer finally broke the American in the seventh game to take a crucial 4-3 lead. Federer hit a backhand straight at Isner, who tried a drop shot on his backhand but it hit the net.
Federer won four of five points on his serve in the next game to take a 5-3 lead and then broke Isner again in the final game.
He has compiled a 22-2 ATP Tour record this season and has now won 15 matches in a row since losing to Isner in Davis Cup.
The only people to have beaten him on the court this year are Nadal and Isner and he defeated both of them in Indian Wells. France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won in a walkover over Federer in January at Doha.
Federer has been on a blistering pace this season and is showing no signs of slowing down. He can’t afford to if he is going to catch world number one Novak Djokovic.
“For the moment, Novak is the best player,” Federer said. “A lot has to happen for me to come through. I am playing well and I have won six of the last eight events I have played.”
Another goal of Federer’s is winning at the London Olympics, which begin in just over four months.
Asked if he could pick one thing to win this year, he replied, “to win the Olympic gold. Why not, right? But it is going to be lot of hard work.”
Isner’s path to the final included a semi-final upset of Djokovic.
Isner, who was leading the tournament in aces heading into the final, hit just four aces against Federer. He also had one double fault and won just 47 percent of his second-serve points.
Isner said when he looks back on the tournament, it was a good experience to reach his first Indian Wells final.
“I certainly played well all week and obviously today it did not go my way,” he said. “I don’t really feel like I necessarily played my best, but that’s what Roger does.
“I mean, if I have any shot to beat him I’m going to have to play my best. That wasn’t the case today. He was too strong.”