Skipping Monte Carlo due to sickness in 2003, Roger Federer made the season's clay-court debut in Munich, conquering the title in Bavaria in dominant style and heading to Rome, where he embraced another impressive run.
The Swiss defeated five rivals to advance into the third Masters 1000 final and the first since Hamburg a year ago, dropping one set and standing with excellent chances of winning the tournament where he did not play well in the previous years.
Roger took down Paul-Henri Mathieu, Mariano Zabaleta, Tommy Robredo and Filippo Volandri to enter the last four, dropping only one set so far and finishing the job against Juan Carlos Ferrero in under an hour, with the Spaniard retiring after trailing 6-4, 4-2.
Thus, Roger set the title clash against Felix Mantilla or Yevgeny Kafelnikov, happy with his performance and hoping to have a chance in the final. Federer was aware of Ferrero's shoulder issues, seeing him in the treatment room a couple of times but not knowing how serious it was.
He also said that the Spaniard had played a lot of tennis in the previous weeks while he took those couple of weeks off, which helped him save energy. The Swiss disapproved of playing the best-of-five final on Sunday and moving straight away to Hamburg for another Masters Series event the following week, saying he would try to save at least some energy for the upcoming week.
Roger Federer reached the final in Rome 2003, with the best-of-five final coming.
"Juan Carlos' shoulder wasn't good this week; I have seen him in the treatment room a couple of times but did not know how bad it was.
I was not expecting him to give up. It's always special to reach the final; it feels good to win a couple of matches, especially at the Masters Series, where you have to score six triumphs in seven days. It takes a lot of energy out of you, and tomorrow there's the best-of-five final; I do not know if that's the right choice, with Hamburg coming next week.
I will try my best here, hoping to have some energy left for the title defense in Hamburg. It isn't easy to play in five back-to-back weeks on clay, especially if you reach finals. You can endure three weeks with no troubles; it's getting more challenging in the fourth and more complicated with every other.
Also, Juan Carlos played the Davis Cup, and it took a lot out of him. Last week in Munich, there were not too many true clay-courters like here in Rome; it's interesting to watch all those players here and in Hamburg next week, as it helps you prepare better for Roland Garros," Roger Federer said.