After six ATP titles behind his name in 2012, Roger Federer stood on 76 trophies in total, just one short of John McEnroe who was the third most successful player in the Open era at that moment. Instead of moving in front of the American, Roger could only tie his record in 2013, lifting one small title in Halle for the worst year since 2001 in terms of the number of crowns won, dropping out from the top-5 and hoping to bounce back in 2014.
Roger kicked off the new season in Brisbane, making a debut at Pat Rafter Arena and advancing into the 114th ATP final following commanding triumphs over Jarkko Nieminen and Marinko Matosevic, struggling a little against Jeremy Chardy in the semis but entering the title clash against his old rival Lleyton Hewitt.
The home favorite chased the first title since 2010 and the 29th overall, facing Roger for the 27th and last time, 15 years since their first clash on the Tour in Lyon when they were still teenagers. Until 2003, the Aussie had a clear 7-2 advantage over the Swiss who turned the tables between the Australian Open 2004-10 when he toppled Lleyton 15 times in a row!
Still, Hewitt would win two of their last three encounters, defeating Roger 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and seven minutes to wrap up the campaign and shine at home just before the 33rd birthday. Unforced errors dotted the match between two great rivals and it was Roger who couldn't find his shots, spraying more than 40 and trailing in the forced errors department as well to finish on the losing side despite having more winners than Lleyton.
The Aussie had the advantage in the shortest rallies where the Swiss should have had the upper hand, toppling Roger in the most extended exchanges to bring the encounter home and start a title celebration. Hewitt landed only 50% of the first serve in and had to work hard in his games, fending off nine out of ten break chances and mounting the pressure on Federer who couldn't endure it, firing 13 aces but struggling to produce more efficient numbers on the first serve, getting broken four times from 11 chances offered to Lleyton.
The Swiss made the worst possible start, spraying a forehand error to suffer a break in the first game and producing another forehand mistake in game five to push Lleyton 4-1 up. Serving to stay in the set, Federer got broken for the third time following yet another loose forehand, handing the set to Lleyton 6-1 in just 27 minutes in front of Rod Laver himself.
Serving at 3-4 in set number two, Roger fended off a break chance with a smash winner, closing the game with two aces and scoring his first and only break in the next game after Lleyon wasted a 40-0 advantage! With the momentum on his side, Federer landed four winners in the tenth game to take it 6-4, hoping for more of the same in the decider and seeing the finish line clearer than his rival.
As was expected, Hewitt had to dig deep in the first game of the final set, fending off four break chances and making an important hold that kept him in the match. Roger squandered more opportunities in the third game and paid the price in the very next game when his forehand landed long, getting broken to send the Aussie 3-1 in front.
In the seventh game, Lleyton did his best to repel more break points, staying in front and sealing the deal with a comfortable hold at 5-3 to receive a standing ovation from packed Pat Rafter Arena in what was his first ATP crown on the home soil since Sydney 2005.