Thiem won 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 against the heavily-favored Federer to secure his first ATP Masters 1000 event and a first title since the St. Petersburg Open in Russia in September 2018. Federer, fresh from victory at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, was seeking a 101st ATP Tour title.
Thiem came into the match as an underdog and was expected to be given a tough match by Federer, who had a walkover in the semifinal after Rafael Nadal retired due to a knee injury.
After breaking in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead, Federer went on to win the first set 6-3 in 36 minutes. However, two missed break points and an uncharacteristically poor service game in the second set saw Federer allow Thiem back into the match and the Austrian then broke the 20-times Grand Slam champion to take the final into a deciding third set.
In the decider, Thiem held serve, went on to break Federer in the 11th game and then won the match when Federer netted a return into the net.
Thiem, regarded as one of the game’s rising stars, has struggled for consistency in recent months but was elated following his win over Federer who was bidding to win a record sixth title at Indian Wells.
“I came from a really bad form in all categories, and now I’m the champion of Indian Wells.” Thiem said.
Federer, 37, took the defeat in his stride despite missing out on inching closer to Jimmy Connors record of 109 titles.
“I just got my 100 in Dubai and I had a good week here. Really there is no reason to get down. Plus there is more to look forward to in Miami.” Federer said after the final.
Thiem will move up the ATP rankings to fourth while Federer will move up to fifth. The next tournament in the calendar is the Miami Open, which starts on March 18 with qualifying and ends on March 31.