|Disappointment for Nadal, who Djokovic referred to as 'the greatest player ever' [AFP]
Serbia's Novak Djokovic overpowered world number one Rafael Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to win the BNP Paribas Open title on Sunday in California, improving his impressive unbeaten record this season to 18-0.
The Australian Open champion, who took over the No2 world ranking by beating Roger Federer in the semifinals, has looked unstoppable this season and the result was sweet revenge after losing to Nadal in the 2007 Indian Wells final.
Djokovic fired four aces, including two key ones to hold serve in the second set, in the two-hour, 25-minute match to capture his second Californian crown.
"I am playing with a lot of confidence, I'm feeling the ball well on the court," third-seeded Djokovic said after celebrating victory by clenching both fists and yelling skywards.
"I'm very dedicated. I have a big will to win each match I'm playing. It will not stop here, definitely. I want to keep on going, keep on playing good tennis."
Djokovic shrugged off the loss of the opening set to outlast the top-ranked Nadal in a gripping match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. He broke Nadal twice early in the final set before sealing victory when the Spanish left-hander netted a forehand.
It was the 23-year-old's second triumph in the elite ATP Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells, having first won the title here in 2008.
During the trophy presentation, Djokovic congratulated Nadal on "a great tournament", before adding: "For me, you are the greatest player ever."
Nadal, the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion, applauded the 23-year-old Serb for his third successive tournament win of the year.
"You started the season fantastic so all the best for the rest of the season," the Spaniard said after his own record for the year slipped to 14-3.
"Well done. I lost today but I lost to one of the greatest."
Nadal was frustrated, though, after playing his best tennis of the tournament in the opening set before his service game fell apart.
The opening set went with serve until Nadal broke Djokovic in the fifth game but the Serb immediately broke back in the sixth, pumping his right fist in delight after hitting a backhand winner down the line.
However the Spaniard regained control by breaking Djokovic in the seventh, after his opponent dumped successive backhands into the net, to win the first set in 48 minutes.
The second set was almost a mirror image of the first with three successive breaks of serve paving the way for Djokovic to level the match.
He broke Nadal in the sixth game after the Spaniard hooked a forehand wide before failing to hold his own serve in the seventh.
The Serb immediately recovered, though, by again breaking in the eighth and he shook off a strong challenge by Nadal in the ninth, holding serve with his sixth set point after his opponent pushed a two-fisted backhand wide.
Djokovic broke Nadal in the first game of the third set and cruised to victory from there. He hammered aces on the final points to hold serve in the fourth and sixth games.
"I am extremely happy with the way I'm playing and with the success that I'm having," Djokovic said.
"But I know that the season is very long and I don't want to be too euphoric about the win. I need to celebrate a little bit and then move on."