After winning the first ATP title in Milan and advancing into the last eight at Wimbledon in 2001, Roger Federer was ready to chase even bigger goals in the following season, lifting the first Masters 1000 crown in Hamburg and entering the top-10 on the next morning, still at the age of 20.
Roger had the opportunity to make a debut at the Masters Cup in Shanghai at the end of 2002, losing to Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-final and preparing to conquer the tennis world in the season to come. The 21-year-old won five out of eight matches in January 2003, losing to David Nalbandian in the fourth round of the Australian Open in five sets before scoring two wins in Davis Cup against the Netherlands to build the momentum.
Heading to Marseille for the fourth consecutive time (also the last), Roger went all the way to win his fifth ATP title, three years after competing in the first ATP final there. Roger kicked off the campaign in under an hour, with Ivan Ljubicic withdrawing after the opening set tie break to send Federer into the second round where he defeated Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-3 in swift 67 minutes.
The Swiss scored a quick triumph, although he had to work hard to earn it, fending off ten out of 11 break points to limit the damage behind the initial shot and move into the quarter-final where he faced Raemon Sluiter. The Dutch won a set but Roger prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in an hour and 48 minutes despite having more problems on serve, having to defend 11 out of 13 break chances to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard, breaking Sluiter three times to book the place in the semis.
There, he finally delivered better performance on serve, ousting Karol Kucera 7-6, 6-3 in an hour and 26 minutes, offering no break chances to his rival and stealing the Slovak's serve twice in the second set to advance into his 11th ATP final.
On February 16, Roger Federer defeated Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 7-6 in an hour and 24 minutes to lift the fifth ATP trophy and crack the top-5 for the second time in a career. It was their second clash and the second triumph for the Swiss who dominated with his first serve to face only two break points, getting broken once and keeping the pressure on the Swede all the time.
Bjorkman had a small advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes, although that couldn't give him at least a set after Roger destroyed him in the mid-range exchanges from five to eight strokes. Hitting more winners and forcing more errors, Federer had ten break opportunities and converted three to wrap up the victory in straight sets, making the best possible start and sealing the deal in the second set tie break after a comeback.
Roger scored an instant break for the perfect start of the encounter, prevailing in a more prolonged rally to forge the lead and cementing it with four winners in game two. The Swede repelled two break chances in game three to get his name on the scoreboard before Roger broke him again at 3-1 on his fifth break point, increasing the advantage to 5-1 with a service winner.
Three good serves in the eighth game clinched the opener for Federer who finally had to deal with a break point at the start of the second set after a forehand return winner from Bjorkman. The Swede couldn't convert the first but the next one got the job done for him after a weak backhand slice from the youngster.
Jonas moved 3-0 up and was 30-0 up on the return in game four as well before Roger claimed four straight points to avoid another break and stay within one break deficit. That proved to be even more critical when Federer broke back in game five, holding at 15 to level the score at 3-3 and sending the set into a tie break after six relaxed holds on both sides.
Roger opened it with three winners for a 3-1 lead and earned two match points with a beautiful volley winner. Bjorkman made one last push to save them both before Federer set the third with a backhand down the line winner. That one proved to be the lucky one, celebrating the title when Jonas netted an easy forehand and starting a stellar journey that would bring him so much more for the rest of the year.