At the end of 2002, Roger Federer established himself as a Top 10 player and he had big plans for the following season. As we all know, he won Wimbledon in 2003 and that gave him the chance to fight for the number 1 spot in the following months on the US Open Series.
On Monday, August 4, Roger was 340 points behind Andre Agassi in the standings and when Andre got defeated in the quarters of the Canadian Masters against Rainer Schuettler Federer had the opportunity to pass him in the rankings and conquer the ATP throne for the first time in his career.
Just a day after his 22nd birthday, on August 9, Roger walked on the court against Andy Roddick in the semi-final encounter that stood between him and the dethroning Agassi, but he lost the match by 6-4 3-6 7-6 in an hour and 56 minutes, missing the possibility to become world number 1.
This was their 5th meeting and the first win for Andy, who was super motivated to do his best against Federer, who beat him in the semis at Wimbledon a month earlier. Swiss was 4-2 up in the final set but he couldn't bring the match home from there.
After the first round loss at Roland Garros, Andy 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 number 1 position in November.
After this win over Roger, Andy was 23-2 with Brad and he will win the US Open title a month later as well. Against Roger, he served at only 48% but he kept his service games safe, despite the fact he got broken on both chances Federer had.
On the other hand, Federer hit 10 double faults and he struggled with his second serve, facing 9 break points. He did well to fends off 7 of these and he was in the position to seal the deal after that break in the final set, but he just came short in the end, winning 3 points less than Andy to end his journey in the semi-final.
Officially, Andy was on 34 winners and 23 unforced errors while Roger finished the match with similar numbers, standing on a 38-28 ratio.
Roddick earned 2 break points already in the 3rd game and he converted the first when Roger netted a backhand.
American moved 3-1 in front with 3 aces in game 4 and he continued to play well from the baseline, exploiting Roger's backhand and dictating the pace with his forehands. Federer recovered from a slow start and he had 0-30 on return in game 8, only to lose 4 straight points, as Andy moved 5-3 in front.
American closed the opening set by 6-4 in game 10 with a service winner after 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 faced 3 break points at the start of the second set.
He saved all of them for an important hold and they both served well until game 6 when Andy experienced problems on serve after being 40-0 up. He double faulted to give Roger a break point and Swiss converted it when Andy sent the volley long.
Federer closed the set with a hold at love in game 9, he reduced the number of errors and converted that lone chance on the return he got to grab the set and send the match into a decider. Carried by this momentum, Roger broke at the start of the final set to get himself in the driving seat, he was now reading Andy's serves better and also took charge from the baseline, closing the game with a backhand winner.
Federer saved two break points in game 4 with 2 aces, and the third one with a forehand winner, refusing to surrender the serve and the lead, moving 3-1 in front. He had to dig deep in game number 6 as well, as Roddick had break point again, but Roger hit an amazing backhand cross court winner after a 23-stroke rally to repel another break chance.
Federer finished the game with 2 service winners to build a 4-2 lead, moving 2 games away from reaching the number 1 spot. Andy was hanging in there and he created another break point after an amazing return in game 8. He converted it after a deep return, leveling the score at 4-4 and firing 3 service winners in game 9 to move ahead.
Both players held easily in the next 3 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 he pulled one mini-break back in the 5th point to keep himself in contention.
Still, his faith was pretty much sealed when Roddick took the next point with an amazing running forehand winner and he crossed the finish line when Roger hit a forehand long in point number 10. Next week in Cincinnati, Roger had another chance to replace Agassi at the top of the ATP rankings, but he got halted by David Nalbandian in the second round, in 2 tie breaks.