INDIAN WELLS, United States: World number two Novak Djokovic held on for a three-set win over American John Isner on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to set up an Indian Wells ATP Masters title showdown with Roger Federer.
Federer, a four-time champion in the California desert who is seeded seventh this year, was in dominant form in a 6-3, 6-1 semifinal 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), 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.
“Twice I had chance to finish it out and I played two bad games and he played an incredible tiebreaker,” Djokovic said. “And, you know, when you get to the tiebreaker with John Isner, whoever you are, you’re not a favorite.”
The Serbian, who won the title here in 2008 and 2011, was pleased with how he regrouped. On Sunday (Monday in Manila), 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. 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.