INDIAN WELLS: Roger Federer claimed a record-equalling fifth ATP Indian Wells Masters title on Sunday, continuing his career resurgence with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Stan Wawrinka.
Federer, sidelined some six months after knee surgery last year, returned to win his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.
With Sunday’s triumph in the all-Swiss final, Federer joined Novak Djokovic as the only men to win five Indian Wells titles, adding to those he won in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012.
At 35, Federer is the oldest ATP player to win one of the elite Masters titles, supplanting Andre Agassi who was 34 when he won in Cincinnati in 2004.
The speedy progress means 10th-ranked Federer will have to reassess his 2017 goals. Prior to the Australian Open his aim was to get his ranking to as high as eighth by the time Wimbledon was over.
While Federer had won 19 of 22 prior meetings with Wawrinka — including a semi-final win in Melbourne _ he noted that his compatriot would be no easy mark as he played his first tournament in America since winning the US Open in September.
But Federer claimed a tightly contested first set with a break in the 10th game, pushing Wawrinka into a forehand error to end a tense rally for a set point, on which Wawrinka sent another forehand long.
Wawrinka responded immediately with a break to open the first set — after Federer had held all 42 of his service games in the tournament to that point.
He had saved the lone break point he faced — in his straight-sets thumping of Rafael Nadal in the fourth round -- but sent a backhand long on break point to give Wawrinka the advantage in the set.
Wawrinka then withstood two break points to hold for a 2-0 lead, which proved short-lived as Federer won the next three games to take a 3-2 lead.
Meanwhile, Elena Vesnina capped a stellar Indian Wells campaign with a hard-fought 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-4 triumph over fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women’s final .
Playing in her first final at the elite Premier Mandatory level, world number 15 Vesnina battled through a tense three hours and one minute to subdue eighth-ranked Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2017