Struggling to find the form in 2013, Roger Federer claimed only one title and suffered 17 losses, dropping out from the top-5 for the first time since February 2003! Things looked a little bit better for the Swiss at the beginning of 2014, reaching the semi-final at the Australian Open and winning the title in Dubai to gain confidence ahead of the first Masters 1000 event of the season in Indian Wells.
Prevailing against Dmitry Tursunov in the third round, Roger defeated Tommy Haas and Kevin Anderson to find himself in the semis where he faced Alexandr Dolgopolov. World no. 31 stunned Rafael Nadal at the beginning of the competition, taking down Fabio Fognini and Milos Raonic in the upcoming encounters to secure the place in the first Masters 1000 semi-final, playing on a high level against the Canadian and hoping for more of the same against a former champion.
Nonetheless, Federer had other plans, delivering a 6-3, 6-1 victory in 62 minutes to race into the fifth Indian Wells title match against Novak Djokovic, his first at the Masters 1000 level since Rome last spring. It was their second clash and Roger stormed over his opponent from start to finish, dropping ten points behind the initial shot and stealing half of the return points to grab four breaks from nine opportunities that carried him home in just over an hour.
The Ukrainian served at 39% and that was the ticket for self-destruction, hitting 12 winners and 25 unforced errors, with Federer taming his shots more efficiently to notch the same number of winners and unforced errors, causing 25 forced mistakes from the other side of the net which helped him a lot as well.
Federer held at 15 in the first game and repeated that in the third game with a service winner, reaching deuce on the return in the fourth game before Alexandr leveled the score at 2-2 with a booming serve. The Swiss landed three winners in the fifth game and held after a few troubles next time around, staying in front and securing a break in the next game following a loose forehand from Dolgopolov.
Serving for the set at 5-3, Roger landed four unreturned serves to wrap up the opener in half an hour, firing a return winner at the beginning of the second set to break at 15 and move even closer to the finish line, taking 16 of the last 22 points.
The three-time winner held at love in game two, extending the advantage with another powerful serve two games later and moving 4-1 up after a marathon fifth game to continue his march towards the victory. Dolgopolov sprayed another forehand error in the sixth game and suffered a break at love a few minutes later to propel Federer into the title match, unable to extend his streak and perform better against the crowd favorite who was ready to challenge Novak Djokovic in the battle for the trophy.