INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Canadian Milos Raonic believes he has what it takes to beat the top players in tennis. He just didn’t have it in him on Sunday.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic rolled past the Thornhill, Ont., product 6-2, 6-0 to win the BNP Paribas Open for a record fifth time, improving to 22-1 in matches this year.
"I need to work harder, I need to execute better," Raonic said. "I’m on the right track. It’s about putting things together, being effective, which today I wasn’t able to do.
"I think I have it within me, but obviously I need to reach a lot deeper to find that execution."
It was Djokovic’s third consecutive title in the California desert, breaking a tie with four-time champion Roger Federer, who lost to the Serb the past two years in the final and skipped this year because of a knee injury.
The women’s final was equally one-sided.
Victoria Azarenka defeated error-prone Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4, returning Azarenka to the world’s top 10 for the first time since August 2014.
Djokovic needed an hour, 17 minutes to dispatch Raonic, whose big serve got broken five times.
The 25-year-old Raonic served just four aces and had 27 unforced errors. His first serve averaged 128 mph (206 kilometres per hour) — much faster than Djokovic’s 111 mph (178.6 kmph)– but he connected on only 55 per cent. Djokovic landed 68 per cent of his first serves and was never broken.
Raonic, who had been sidelined through February with an adductor injury sustained during the Australian Open semifinal in January, left the court for treatment after Sunday’s first set.
"It feels similar (to the Australian Open injury) but not as bad," Raonic said. "It could be frustrating, could not be. Maybe it’s just sort of a mental way of my body protecting.
"I don’t think it affected my effort, he played much better than I did. I struggled again, just like last time, to start the match well, and then he’s the best player in the world at this moment and a good step ahead of everybody."
On the women’s side, Williams gave fans little to cheer about on an unseasonable 91-degree (32 C) day while making 33 unforced errors. After getting broken to trail 3-0 in the second set, Williams returned to her seat and smashed her racket.
Trailing 5-1, Williams won three straight games and held two break points on Azarenka’s serve in the last game. But Williams ended the match with three straight errors.
"Just unexpected nerves maybe. I definitely didn’t expect to be on that stage again," said Williams, who was back at Indian Wells after ending her 14-year boycott last year.
Azarenka’s first victory over the top-ranked Williams since the Cincinnati final in August 2013 was overshadowed by comments from tournament director Raymond Moore. Earlier Sunday, he criticized the WTA Tour and its players, saying they "ride on the coattails of the men" while describing the women as "physically attractive and competitively attractive."
Williams objected, saying, "Those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate." Azarenka also expressed disappointment.
Djokovic and Azarenka each earned $1.02 million.
Azarenka, who will move up seven spots to No. 8 in the WTA Tour rankings Monday, hit just 10 winners and had 20 unforced errors in the two-hour match. She connected on 60 per cent of her first serves and broke Williams’ serve three times. Williams converted just 1 of 12 break chances.
"I have to go for it," Azarenka said. "She’s not a type of player that if you’re going to play safe she’s going to give it to you or she’s going to miss. You really have to go out there and take away because there is nothing coming easy."
Williams was bidding to become the first woman to win three titles at Indian Wells, where she won in 1999 and 2001. After getting booed heavily while beating Kim Clijsters for her last title here, she vowed never to return. That year the Williams sisters were supposed to meet in a semifinal, but Venus withdrew shortly before the match with a knee injury. The crowd reacted harshly and their father Richard said he heard racial taunts.
"Obviously the last time I was there was probably the worst moment of my whole career. Not probably. Sure," Williams said. "To be back out there, which I never thought I would be, was really different and special. I was overwhelmed with emotions and nerves."