The men's tennis was packed with an incredible young generation born in the early 80s, with their first significant results coming in the late 90s, thanks to Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt. While the Russian and the Aussie were already among the world's best players, Roger Federer was eager to join them as soon as possible, making notable jumps through the rankings and reaching the first Major quarter-finals in 2001.
Marat and Roger were both ranked among the top-8 seeds in Miami 2003. Still, Marat couldn't stay in the event for too long after losing to Davide Sanguinetti in the opening encounter. On the other hand, Roger made a winning start, beating Luis Horna 6-2, 7-5 in an hour and 21 minutes.
After the match, Roger was asked to describe notable rivalries and competitions, mentioning he had already played against Pete Sampras at Wimbledon and fulfilled one of his dreams.
Roger Federer spoke about his favorite rivals in Miami 2003.
A teenager toppled the seven-time champion in five epic sets in the fourth round in 2001, enduring all the challenges in the closing stages to secure one of the best victories of his early career.
Besides Pete, Roger also brought Marat Safin into the story, praising the Russian and saying he likes to compete against him, describing Marat as a nice guy off the court. Safin won their latest match in Moscow at the end of 2002 for his first victory over Roger.
The latter celebrated in a tight battle in Rome in 2001 and twice more in 2002, defeating the Russian in the final of the Masters 1000 event in Hamburg for his first trophy at that level. "You know, I already had a match against Pete Sampras at Wimbledon; I don't need to play that one again.
Otherwise, I like to play versus Marat Safin; I think he is a nice guy off the court. We always have enjoyable encounters. Winning many matches is very important for your confidence, making you play better. You feel like you can go for more; you are better on big points; it changes your entire mental approach to the match.
It's been an excellent start of the year again for me. Last two or three years, I always played well in the opening months," Roger Federer said.