Back in 2013, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic were the players to beat in Indian Wells, with seven out of eight top seeds reaching the quarter-final stage. Roger Federer lost to Rafael Nadal while Juan Martin del Potro ousted Andy Murray, setting the semi-final clashes against Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych.
Nadal ousted the Czech 6-4, 7-5 while del Potro toppled world no. 1 Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 50 minutes of grueling battle, delivering the third victory over the Serb in 11 encounters. For the second straight year, Djokovic lost in the semi-final in the desert, suffering the first defeat after winning the opening set in the Masters 1000 semi-final clash since Shanghai 2009.
Del Potro won one point more than Djokovic, an excellent illustration of how tight the battle was, fending off seven out of 11 break chances and earning five breaks from 12 opportunities to cross the finish line first and advance into the second Masters 1000 final, the first since Canada 2009.
Novak had more winners but also more errors, having the upper hand in the more extended exchanges and allowing Juan Martin to erase that deficit in the shortest ones to stay in touch and move over the top. Both players held with a service winner in the opening games and Novak produced the one from his forehand to open a 2-1 gap, serving well in game five as well to remain in front.
The Argentine had to work hard in the eighth game, fending off four break chances and holding after an unreturned serve to level the score at 4-4, saving two more break opportunities at 4-5 before Novak converted the next one to seal the opener after 52 minutes.
Del Potro made a better start in set number two, stealing Djokovic's serve in the first game after a forehand error from the Serb who broke back in the very next game to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard.
Defending his backhand nicely, Juan Martin landed a winner from the left wing to grab another break in game three, confirming it with a forehand winner that sent him 3-1 in front. Another bullet from his forehand sent del Potro 5-2 up, wasting a set point in the next game as Novak pulled one break back with a return winner.
The Serb reduced the deficit to 4-5 with a service winner but that was all he could do, spraying a backhand error in game ten to hand the set to his rival after an hour and 50 minutes of a titanic battle. Ready to start all over, a former champion clinched a break in the second game of the final set with a deep return, holding after a couple of deuces to open a 3-0 advantage and move closer to the finish line.
The drama was on again when del Potro pulled the break back in the fifth game, holding at love with a service winner to level the score at 3-3 and gathering momentum ahead of the second part of the set. Novak repelled two break chances in the next game to avoid a further downfall, wasting a game point at 4-4 and suffering a break that pushed Juan Martin in front.
Serving for the victory in the tenth game, the Argentine blasted an ace to wrap the encounter up, beating Novak for the third time and setting the title clash against Rafael Nadal.