A year after he won the junior singles title, Roger Federer made his Wimbledon debut in 1999, losing the opening round in two first two visits to the All England Club. That all changed in 2001 when the young Swiss dethroned the seven-time champion Pete Sampras before losing to Tim Henman in the quarters, standing as a force to be reckoned with at the most prestigious tennis event in the years to come.
In 2002, Mario Ancic stunned Roger in the first round, leaving the Swiss determined never to allow that again, returning stronger in 2003 and lifting the first Grand Slam title after a spectacular performance. On July 4, Federer took down another accomplished youngster Andy Roddick 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 to advance into the first Wimbledon final.
It was one of the most important matches in the career of both at that point, with Federer competing in the first Grand Slam semi-final while Andy already did that in Melbourne a few months earlier, hoping to book the spot in the title match at the most significant tennis event.
Just like Roger, the American lost only one set en route to the last four where he stood no chance against an amazing rival who did everything right to score the victory in an hour and 43 minutes, overpowering Andy with mind-blowing tennis in sets two and three.
Roddick would struggle against Federer throughout the career, winning three out of 24 encounters, with the Swiss having the upper hand earlier in their rivalry, defeating Andy in all four clashes including this one at Wimbledon and winning nine out of ten sets played!
Federer was the favorite and presented pinnacle grass-court tennis, hitting more than 70 winners in total and committing just 20 unforced errors, leaving Roddick with no answer. We have to say that the American had a set point in the tie break of the first set, failing to convert it and never getting another chance against the opponent who pretty much flew over the court in the rest of the encounter, keeping his eyes set firmly on the finish line.
Federer was the more aggressive player out there, coming to the net more often and hitting more riskier groundstrokes which gave him the edge in the points and kept them on his racquet. Attacking tennis usually brings errors as well and one might have been expecting to see a lot of those on Roger's tally which wasn't the case with this encounter, though, taming his shots in a manner of a true Wimbledon champion.
Overall, Federer had six mistakes more than Andy, standing strong in the winners segment and never looking back after a tight opening set. Roger made a lot of damage with his sharp and precise serve, hitting 34 service winners while Roddick stayed on 25 (officially, Andy had just four aces but, as always, service winners present much wider picture).
Also, the Swiss charged forward every time he would have landed the first serve in, smartly opting to stay behind after the second serve and build the point from the baseline. Andy had nine volley winners although it was obvious he didn't feel comfortable there, exposed against Roger's accurate groundstrokes and with no serve&volley combos in his gameplan.
Besides that, Federer covered the court like probably no one before him on this surface, with great anticipation and the ability to predict the next move from his opponent rather quickly. Roddick's groundstrokes were pretty much off, managing to hit mediocre seven winners and force 15 errors from Roger.
In comparison to that, Federer fired 17 forehand winners alone, a clear illustration of his dominance, from both the baseline and at the net. Roddick stayed in touch with Federer in the longest rallies but he always had to find one or two extra shots to penetrate the rival or draw the mistake out of him, with no chance to endure such a high rhythm in the entire clash.
If we consider the whole package of serve, return, offensive and defensive game, this was one of the most impressive and explosive Wimbledon wins for Roger Federer, despite the fact he has had many o those over the years!
As we already said, Federer outplayed Roddick in service winners 34-25 and that could have only meant trouble for Andy who served at 58% and lost 36% of the points behind the initial shot. On the other hand, Roger dropped 17 points in 15 service games and the tie break, having only one awkward moment in his games at the beginning of the second set when fending off two lone break points he faced in the entire match, stealing Andy's serve three times from eight opportunities.
Roger made the biggest difference in the winners from the field department, striking 40 against only 20 for Andy, far from enough to keep him in contention or to put the Swiss under more pressure, especially on the return.
Roger had 17 winners from his forehand and 12 from a volley that worked better and better as the match progressed, reducing Roddick on three direct points from forehand, needing much more than that to stay competitive. They had a similar number of unforced errors (20 for Roger and 17 for Andy), with the American making the biggest one on that set point in the first set.
Also, Roger had three forced errors more (15-12) which brings the total number of mistakes to 35-29 for Roger. That becomes irrelevant when we know that he had 74 winners in total opposed to only 45 from Andy, the most striking difference that propelled Federer into the title match.
Almost 68% of the points ended with the maximum number of four shots, an expected number in the encounters between these two, with a significant 70-54 advantage on Roger's side thanks to service winners and the superior first shot after the initial shot, no matter it was a groundstroke or a volley.
Federer also had the edge in the mid-range rallies, winning 27 out of 46, leaving Andy with a slim 7-6 advantage in 13 most developed exchanges that was rather trivial for the overall result. The match kicked off unexpectedly with ten-stroke rallies that both went to Roddick's side after forehand errors from Roger, with the American closing the game with a volley winner and another one from his serve.
In the second game, Federer fired three service winners to get his name on the scoreboard, creating the first break chance in the next game. The Swiss found the rhythm on the return early on and earned that break point with a forehand winner, denied by Andy who won two longer rallies and sealed the game with a nice smash.
The Swiss tried to rush to the net in game four after the serve, sending two volleys long before making a hold with a couple of winners for a 2-2. An amazing backhand winner sent Roger 30-15 up on the return in the fifth game, unable to do more as Roddick landed two service winners to avoid further troubles and move in front again.
Federer quickly got back to 3-3 with four winners, setting the range of his groundstrokes that were above the American's and feeling more comfortable on the court so far. There were six winners in game seven, Roger again claimed two points on the return although Andy stayed in front with three winners from the field, an essential fact for him at that moment since he had only five service winners in the opening four service games.
Federer still had full control in his games, leveling the score at 4-4 with four service winners before Roddick gained another lead with two unreturned serves and one longer rally in the ninth game, again losing two points.
The American was powerless in the return games as Federer locked the result at 5-5 with more free points from his initial shot, moving points away from breaking Andy in game 11, only to finish the game with two errors. The Swiss wrapped up the regular action with three winners in game 12 to set up the tie break, developing into an exciting one.
Roger made a mini-break in the very first point after taking a 14-stroke rally but Roddick got it back immediately to erase the deficit. Roger jumped 4-2 ahead after another mini-break before Andy won the next three points to grab the advantage for the first time, earning a set point at 6-5 after another great return.
Nonetheless, he sent a routine forehand into the net and this would prove to be one of the most important points of the entire clash. Roger created his first set point after another deep return, bringing it home with a service winner in the 14th point for an 8-6.
Federer had a clear advantage in service winners (17-9) and also from the court, striking 15 winners against ten from Andy. The Swiss also sprayed a few unforced errors more, 13 to nine, while they both had four forced errors.
Roddick had to work harder in his service games to maintain the positive scoreline, never recovering from that wasted set point. The first game of the second set brought the first and only troubles for Roger on his serve in the entire match when he faced two break points.
Andy returned well and stayed in the game with two winners from the field, earning his first break point after a solid attack. Federer saved it with a forehand volley winner after a 13-stroke rally, playing against another one right after.
This time he found his serves, clinching the game with three service winners and sending the pressure back to Roddick. The American couldn't hold it and we saw the first break when Roger grabbed three mid-range exchanges to create a 40-15 lead in the second game.
Andy saved both break points with winners and even had a game point but it wasn't to be, as Roger broke with a beautiful forehand winner in what had been one of the most notable points of the match. The Swiss cemented the break with three winners in game three, as everything suddenly became much easier for him now, with a set and a break in his pocket.
Both players served well until the end of the set and Federer shifted into a higher gear in his service games, controlling the points superbly at the net and losing just two points in the last four games, rattling off 12 winners in the last 12 points on serve to leave Roddick without any chance of making something significant on the return.
In set number two, Andy had a slight 10-8 advantage in service winners while Roger blew him away from the court in the winners from the field department, striking 17 in just nine games and halting Roddick to five! They had three unforced errors each and Federer made one forced error more than his rival (5-4), which couldn't change anything.
The set was decided in those first two games and Roger's level after that was incredible, probably good enough to parry Pete Sampras from his best days on this very same court! The third set began with four easy holds on both sides although that didn't last for long.
Federer landed three winners in game five to create a break point, converting it after a careless backhand slice from Roddick who could have seen clear writings on the wall following this shot, knowing that his Wimbledon run comes to its end.
There were three winners from each in the next couple of games and Roger moved 5-3 in front with three more direct points in game eight, in what was his eighth consecutive commanding hold. Andy served to stay in the match and was overpowered once again, with Roger blasting four winners to create a match point and seize it after Roddick's error, moving through to his maiden Grand Slam final at the age of 21.
The Swiss had a 9-6 lead in service winners, which shows how well he played on the return, and it was 8-5 for him in the winners from the court. They had a similar number of errors overall and the Swiss forged the difference with those two breaks, serving well all the time to propel himself into the title clash against Mark Philippoussis.