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The top five closest-fought Indian Wells Masters men’s finals

The widely-adored Indian Wells Masters, often referred to as the ‘Fifth Grand Slam’, has boasted some incredible moments in its 47 year history. Join us for a look at the most closely-fought and evenly-contested men’s finals the prestigious tournament has witnessed.


1. Miroslav Mecir vs Yannick Noah – 1989 Final 

In 1989 both Mecir, nicknamed ‘the big cat’ for his agility, and Noah overcame tough opposition to set up a final for the ages.

Starting in the round of 32, Slovakian Mecir beat eventual 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras before then going on to better Indian Wells great Michael Chang in the quarter-finals.

Mecir’s run of challenging opponents didn’t stop there however, as he next had to overcome Jimmy Connors in the semi-finals

Meanwhile, Frenchman Noah had to beat fifth seed Jacob Hlasek in the round of 16 and subsequent eight-time Major winner and third seed Andre Agassi in his quarter-final tie, before dispatching Jay Berger in the semi-finals.

In the final, Mecir’s impressive streak looked to be nearing an end when Noah delivered 14 aces to breeze into a two set lead. However Mecir battled back to win the final three sets and win the match 3-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3.

Mecir’s win marked the end of both an industry standard and his career. With his win he became the last player to win an ATP Tour event with a wooden racket.

Additionally, the title was the last the Slovakian icon would win as he retired the following year due to a worsening back injury.


2. Jim Courier vs Guy Forget – 1991 Final

Jim Courier enjoyed a fine year in 1991, winning a maiden Major at the French Open as well as reaching the US Open final at just 20 years old.

However, when Courier reflects on such a pivotal year, the Indian Wells Masters may be regarded as the event that kickstarted his illustrious career. Spurred on by newly-appointed coach Jose Higueras, Courier impressively won both the singles and the doubles.

Floridian Courier earned three wins against opponents within the ATP’s top ten to reach the final. The first of which came in the round of 16 when he bettered second seed Andre Agassi 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

In the final, the American overturned a two-sets-to-one deficit against Frenchman Guy Forget. Courier ultimately won 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) in a final that lasted a total of three and a half hours.



3. Pete Sampras vs Petr Korda – 1994 Final

Prior to the 1994 final, Sampras and Korda had shared an even rivalry spanning back to the start of the decade. The duo had faced each other a total of 11 times, with American legend Sampras edging the head-to-head 7-4 over his Czechian counterpart.

En route to the final, top-seeded Sampras overcame eighth seed Thomas Muster and third seed Stefan Edberg, whilst Korda only played one player seeded higher than himself in Todd Martin.

In a final that lasted three hours and eight minutes, it was Sampras who emerged victorious 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a match that truly ebbed-and-flowed.

After trading blows and levelling the score at two sets apiece, Sampras won his first Indian Wells Masters title on the same court upon which he won his first-ever ATP match.

On the same court in which he won his first-ever ATP match, Sampras came full-circle to win his first Indian Wells Masters title.

The following week Sampras won the Miami Open to become the just third player to win the ‘Sunshine Double.’


4. Marcelo Rios vs Greg Rusedski – 1998 Final

Marcelo Rios made history for South America when he won both the Indian Wells Masters and the Miami Open, the ‘Sunshine Double,’ to become the first South American player to ever reach the World number one position.

At the time, only three players prior to Rios had achieved such a feat. Rios joined company by the ilk of Jim Courier in 1991, Michael Chang in 1992, and Pete Sampras in 1994.

Rios had to overcome second seed Petr Korda in the quarter-finals, whilst Rusedski beat the likes of Thomas Enqvist, Carlos Moya and Thomas Muster to reach the final.

The final saw sixth and seventh seeds come up against each other in an extremely even and hotly-contested encounter that went four sets and lasted two hours and 46 minutes.

Rios won the first set 6-3 but Rusedski then won the second via an astounding 17-15 tie-break. This was the only set the 22-year-old Chilean lost through the whole event and was the longest tie-break of 1998.

Rios then won a 7-4 tie-break of his own in the third set, before winning the fourth set to decide the match.



5. Mark Phillippousis vs Carlos Moya – 1999 Final

Just one year later, Carlos Moya and Mark Philippoussis shared another excellent final that went in a similar vein to Rios and Rusedski’s gripping encounter.

One day before the final, Moya became the new World number one after beating Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten. However, Philippoussis ended Moya’s hope of a dream Indian Wells in which he secured the World number one spot then won the title.

Philippoussis won 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to win his first and only ever ATP Masters 1000 title, losing to Marat Safin at the Paris Masters the following year in his only other Masters final.

This final is also the last Indian Wells final to have gone the full-five set distance in the American desert.


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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.