Updated: Monday, 17 March 2014 07:59 | By Agence France-Presse

Djokovic beats Federer for Indian Wells crown

World number two Novak Djokovic rallied to beat Roger Federer in a three-set thriller on Sunday for the Indian Wells ATP Masters title.

Djokovic beats Federer for Indian Wells crown

Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return to Roger Federer of Switzerland during the men's final of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 16, 2014 in Indian Wells, California - by Stephen Dunn

Djokovic defeated Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) to capture his third title in the California desert to go with those he won in 2008 and 2011.

In the 33rd career meeting between the tennis heavyweights, Djokovic avenged a loss to 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer in the semi-finals last month at Dubai.

Federer earned his first title in nine months in Dubai and will rise from eighth to fifth in the world on the strength of reaching the Indian Wells final.

Trailing in the final set after dropping his serve in the third game, Federer finally clawed back the break in the 10th game to knot the set.

From there they went to a tiebreaker that was all Djokovic. Federer sent a backhand long on the first point of the breaker, and Djokovic seized a quick 3-0 lead with an overhead smash off a weak Federer lob and another errant backhand from the Swiss.

Federer saved one match point with an ace, but Djokovic ended it on his first opportunity on his own serve when Federer smacked a backhand into the net.

"Of course I would have liked to win a few more points at the end, but Novak made it hard," Federer said.

A break of Djokovic's first service game in the match for a 2-0 lead was the only opening Federer needed to take the first set in 31 minutes.

He put 74 percent of his first serves in play and didn't face a break point.

The second set was tightly contested, and it wasn't until the eighth game that Djokovic mustered the first break point of the set. Federer saved it with a service winner, but a mis-hit forehand on the next point cost him the break and Djokovic confidently served out the set.

"Today was an incredible match, an incredibly difficult match," said Djokovic, who denied Federer an unprecedented fifth Indian Wells title to go with those he won in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012.

The 32-year-old Federer was trying to become the oldest player to win a Masters title since a 34-year-old Andre Agassi won at Cincinnati 2004.

Instead, Djokovic claimed the 17th elite Masters title of his career and his first trophy of 2014.

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