Roger Federer established himself as the top-10 player at the end of 2000, with even bigger plans for the upcoming 2003. The Swiss claimed the first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon 2003, earning a lot of points and getting into contention for the world no.
1 spot during the US Open Series. On Monday, August 4, Roger was 340 points behind Andre Agassi on the ATP list and when Andre lost in the quarter-final of the Canadian Masters to Rainer Schuettler, Federer had the opportunity to pass him and conquer the ATP throne for the first time in a career.
Just a day after turning 22, Roger walked on the court against Andy Roddick on August 9 in the semi-final encounter that stood between him and the dethroning Agassi, losing 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 in an hour and 56 minutes to miss a massive chance of becoming world no.
1 six months before he actually did that in February 2004. This was their fifth meeting on the Tour and the first win for Andy who was super motivated to do his best against Federer who ousted him in the semi-final at Wimbledon a month earlier.
The Swiss had a 4-2 advantage in the final set but couldn’t bring the match home from there, finishing the campaign in the semi-final. After the first-round loss at Roland Garros, Roddick parted ways with his longtime coach Tarik Benhabiles and hired Brad Gilbert who will draw the best from him, helping him to reach the no.
1 position in November that year. After this win over Roger, Andy had 23 wins from 25 matches under Brad and would win the US Open title a month later as well. The American served at only 48%, losing serve twice from as many chances he gave to Federer.
On the other hand, Roger hit ten double faults and struggled on the second serve, facing nine break points and fending off seven of those, having a chance to seal the deal after that break in the final set but just coming short in the end, winning three points less than Andy overall.
Andy was on 34 winners and 23 unforced errors while Roger finished the match with similar numbers, standing on a 38-28 ratio to follow the rival’s pace all the time and perform on a higher level at some moments. Roddick earned two break chances already in the third game and converted the first when Roger netted a backhand for an early lead.
The American moved 3-1 in front with three aces in game four, playing well from the baseline and exploiting Roger’s backhand to keep the upper hand in the rallies. Federer recovered from a slow start and created a 30-0 advantage on return at 3-4, only to lose four straight points as Andy moved a game away from the set.
The American closed the opener with a service winner in game ten after just 29 minutes, keeping his second serve safe and being a more determined player from the baseline. Things went from bad to worse for Roger who had to defend three break chances already at the beginning of the second set.
He repelled them all for a critical hold and they both served well until game six when Andy experienced troubles on serve after being 40-0 up. He hit a double fault to give Roger a break point and the Swiss converted it when Andy sent the volley long.
Federer closed the set with a hold at love in game nine, reducing the number of errors and grabbing that lone chance on the return to grab the set and send the encounter into a decider. Carried by this momentum, Roger broke in the early stages of the final set to get himself in the driving seat, reading Andy’s serves better than in the opener and taking charge from the baseline to close that game with a backhand winner.
Federer saved two break points in game four with aces and the third one with a forehand winner, refusing to surrender the serve and the lead and moving 3-1 in front. He had to dig deep at 3-2 as well, landing an incredible backhand crosscourt winner after a 23-stroke rally to repel another break chance and closing the game with two service winners to build a 4-2 lead, moving two games away from becoming world no.
1. Hanging in there, Roddick earned another break chance after a great return in game eight, seizing it with another deep one to level the score at 4-4 and firing three service winners in the next game to move ahead. Both players held comfortably in the next three games to set up a tie break and Andy got the first mini-break in the second point after another double fault from Roger.
Federer missed an easy forehand in the next point but pulled one mini-break back in the fifth point to keep himself in contention, doing his best to cross the finish line first. Still, his fate was pretty much sealed when Roddick took the next point with a perfect running forehand winner, moving over the top when Roger hit a forehand long at 3-6.
Next week in Cincinnati, Roger had another chance to replace Agassi at the top of the ATP rankings, losing to David Nalbandian in the second round in two tie breaks.