Federer, Djokovic set Indian Wells title tilt
Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return to John Isner of the US during the BNP Paribas Open, at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California, on March 15, 2014 - by Stephen Dunn
Federer, a four-time champion in the California desert who is seeded seventh this year, was in dominant form on Saturday, in a 6-3, 6-1 semi-final victory over Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Second-seeded Djokovic found the going much tougher against 12th-seeded Isner.
The towering 2.08m-tall American had beaten him in the semi-finals here in 2012, and gave the Serbian another scare before Djokovic pulled away in the third set for a 7-5, 6-7 (2/7), 6-1 triumph.
Djokovic twice served for the match in the second set, at 5-4 and 6-5. But Isner held him off and won the tiebreaker, sealing it with an ace on his second set point.
But Isner, who received treatment on his left leg during the match, was broken twice in the final frame, double-faulting to give Djokovic a 3-1 lead.
After another break for 5-1, Djokovic stormed home, winning every point of the final game with a service winner.
"I should have closed it out in the second set," Djokovic said. "I served for it twice, and he played an incredible tiebreaker. Obviously, he was struggling a little in the third."
On Sunday, Djokovic will face Federer for the 33rd time.
Federer's slim 17-15 lead in their head-to-head includes a semi-final victory over Djokovic in Dubai last month.
The women's final in the $12 million (8.6 euros) combined ATP Masters and WTA tournament -- between world number three Agnieszka Radwanska and Flavia Pennetta -- will also be contested on Sunday.
Italian veteran Pennetta, ranked 21st in the world, stunned Chinese world number two Li Na, the top seed, to reach the biggest final of her career.
Federer, winner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, will be going for a 22nd ATP Masters crown.
He thwarted world number 31 Dolgopolov's bid to become just the sixth player to beat both Rafael Nadal and Federer in the same tournament.
- Federer dominates on serve -
Federer put 72 percent of his first serves in play and didn't face break point in an efficient display before an adoring crowd at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden's stadium court.
"It was one of my best serving days ever," he said. "When you are serving like that, everything seems easier. I was just going for it out there."
Federer seemed untroubled by the breezy conditions, and once he'd gained the first service break of the match, for a 5-3 lead in the first set, he was hardly troubled by Dolgopolov.
Federer broke Dolgopolov in the opening game of the second set, and held at love with one of his seven aces on game point for a 2-0 lead.
The Ukrainian fought to keep Federer at bay in the fifth game, saving four break points and giving himself four chances to win it before Federer finally broke again when Dolgopolov's lunging forehand sailed long.
"I felt perfect on the court, actually," said Dolgopolov, who dispatched top seed and defending champion Nadal in the third round. "I was ready physically, mentally. I wasn't nervous much, but I wasn't sharp enough."
By reaching the semi-finals, Federer is assured of returning to the top five in the world rankings for the first time since last September.
If he wins a fifth title to go with those he captured in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012 he's projected to rise to number four in the world.