On this day: Roger Federer, 18, loses first ATP final in Marseille after a thriller



by   |  VIEW 5298

On this day: Roger Federer, 18, loses first ATP final in Marseille after a thriller

At the end of 1999, Roger Federer was one of three youngest players in the top-100, together with Lleyton Hewitt and Andreas Vinciguerra, winning 13 ATP matches and wrapping it up with a Challenger title in Brest. An 18-year-old already proved himself on the fast indoor surfaces, equipped with a booming serve, sharp groundstrokes and attacking abilities that made him the player to beat in the years to come.

The next season stood as another big step forward in Roger's young career, claiming 36 ATP wins in 2000 to enter the top-30 and reaching two ATP finals in Marseille and Basel, both on an indoor surface. The Basel native was off to a shaky start of the season, winning four of the first eight encounters, including the third-round appearance in Melbourne and a great win over Mark Philippoussis in the Davis Cup.

In the following week, Roger was in Marseille where he played the first ATP final against the compatriot Marc Rosset on February 13, losing it 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 in just under two hours. Federer defeated Antony Dupuis 6-4, 6-4 in only 72 minutes in the first round, getting broken once and scoring three beaks on the other side to move into the last 16 where he toppled a future Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-2 in swift 63 minutes for the place in the quarters.

The youngster lost only 15 points in nine service games, never facing a break point and using the fact that Johansson couldn't land the first serve in, breaking him three times to stay on the title course. Ivan Ljubicic awaited in the quarters and Federer had to work much harder this time around, beating the Croat 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 in two hours and seven minutes after a great fight in the deciding set for the place in the semi-final.

There, the Swiss ousted Fabrice Santoro 7-6, 7-5 in an hour and 34 minutes, playing against only two break chances and overpowering the Frenchman in the closing stages of both sets to advance into his maiden ATP final. Federer made the best possible start against Rosset in the first all-Swiss ATP final but just fell short in the end, missing a chance to claim the first ATP title and having to wait for almost a year to change that.

The youngster broke in the opening game of the match and increased the lead to 4-1 when Rosset sprayed a forehand error in game five, clinching the opener with three winners at 5-2 after 30 minutes. Marc bounced back in set number two, securing a break at 2-1 when Roger sent a forehand long and holding at love a few minutes later to cement the lead and seal the deal with a volley winner at 5-3 to send the clash into a decider.

They stayed neck and neck there until 4-4 when Roger netted an easy backhand to give the serve away and allow Marc to serve for the title. Playing against match point in that tenth game, Federer fired a return winner to repel it, erasing two more with backhand winners before breaking back after a costly double fault from Rosset to stay alive.

In the tie break, two service winners pushed Marc 5-2 before another double fault that kept Roger in contention, with both standing two points away from the win at 5-5. Rosset moved 6-5 up with a service winner and secured the title in the 12th point after a huge forehand mistake from Roger who couldn't prevail in the closing moments and steal the title away from his good friend.