A year after winning 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, standing as a force to be reckoned with at the most prestigious tennis event in the years to come.
On July 4, 2003, 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 career's most important matches for both at that point, with Federer competing in the first Major semi-final and Roddick in the second after Melbourne in January.
Like Roger, the American lost only one set en route to the last four, standing no chance there against a great rival who did everything right to bring the match home in an hour and 43 minutes. Federer was the favorite, and he presented pinnacle grass-court tennis that saw him hitting over 70 winners and just 20 unforced errors, leaving Roddick with no answer.
We have to mention the American's set point in the opening set's tie break, failing to convert it and never getting another chance against the opponent who pretty much flew over the court. Federer was the more aggressive player, coming to the net more often and hitting more riskier groundstrokes to gain the edge in the rallies and keep them on his racquet.
Attacking tennis usually brings errors, and one might have been expecting to see many of those on Roger's tally. That wasn't the case in this encounter, though, as he tamed his shots in a manner of a true Wimbledon champion.
Federer had six mistakes more than Andy, standing firm in the winners segment and never looking back after a tight opening set. Roger did a lot of damage with his sharp and precise serve, hitting 34 service winners. Also, the Swiss charged forward every time he would land the first serve in, smartly opting to stay behind after the second serve and build the point from the baseline.
Roger Federer defeated Andy Roddick in 2003 for his first Wimbledon final.
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 ability to quickly predict his rival's next move. Roddick's groundstrokes were pretty much off, managing to hit mediocre seven winners and force Roger's 15 errors.
In comparison to that, Federer fired 17 forehand winners alone, a clear illustration of his dominance from both the baseline and the net. Roddick stayed in touch with Federer in the most extended rallies, having 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, it was one of the most impressive and explosive Wimbledon triumphs for Federer, despite the fact he has had many of those over the years! As we already said, the Swiss outplayed Roddick in service winners 34-25, and that could only mean 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, experiencing only one awkward moment at the beginning of the second set. He fended off two break points and stole Andy's serve three times from eight opportunities.
Federer made the most significant difference in the winners from the field department, striking 40 against Andy's only 20, far from enough to keep him in contention or put the Swiss under more pressure, especially on the return.
The Swiss 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. They had a similar number of unforced errors (20 for Roger and 17 for Andy), and the American made the biggest one on that set point in the first set.
Roger had three forced errors more (15-12), which brings the total number of mistakes to 35-29 in Andy's favor. That becomes irrelevant when we know that Federer had 74 winners opposed to only 45 from Andy, the most striking difference that propelled the Swiss into the title match.
Almost 68% of the points ended with the maximum number of four shots, the 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 stroke.
Federer also had the edge in the mid-range rallies, winning 27 out of 46 and leaving Roddick with a slim 7-6 advantage in 13 most developed exchanges, which was rather trivial for the overall result.