Ljubicic beats Roddick to win Indian Wells title

INDIAN WELLS: Ivan Ljubicic beat American Andy Roddick 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5) Sunday to win the Indian Wells men''s title, the first elite Masters 1000 triumph of the Croatian veteran''s career.

Ljubicic, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Friday, became the oldest first-time winner of a Masters event.

He was runner-up at Paris and Madrid in 2005 and at Miami in 2006 - the same year he reached his career-high ranking of number three in he world.

But he showed he has plenty of quality tennis left in him this week, with victories over world number two Novak Djokovic and number three Rafael Nadal en route to his clash with eighth-ranked Roddick.

Ljubicic put on a serving clinic on stadium court, belting 20 aces and winning a bevy of other points with his serve.

Fittingly Ljubicic captured the match with a last service winner - but not before Roddick had saved three match points.

Ljubicic had raced to a 5-1 lead in the second-set tiebreaker, and went up 6-2 on Roddick''s backhand miscue.

On his first chance to seal the win, Ljubicic double-faulted. Roddick then saved two more match points on his serve before Ljubicic clinched the victory.

"He served great," said Roddick, who had 11 aces. "The last two days was an exhibition in how-to on serving big points.

"He had complete control over all four spots," Roddick added. "He hit ''em.

In fact, neither player was broken in the match. Both worked their way out of trouble in the opening set, Roddick trailing 0-40 in the opening game before managing to hold.

Ljubicic did the same in the fourth game, and when the tiebreaker rolled around it was the Croatian who took charge - taking a 3-1 lead and going on to wrap up the set by belting a forehand past Roddick after pulling him forward with a drop shot.

Ljubicic claimed his 10th career title and his first since Lyon last October, and in doing so insured he will climb from his current 26th in the world into the top 15. The last time he was ranked in the top 20 was in January 2008.

Roddick was gracious in defeat, telling the crowd who had backed him that the game was lucky to have Ljubicic around.

"I don''t think we know each other that well personally, but I can certainly respect someone who has put in the years and has won close to 400 matches in his career," Roddick said.

"It seems like he always plays the game the right way."