Roger Federer established himself as a top-10 player at the end of 2002, with big plans for the new season. The Swiss claimed the first Major title at Wimbledon 2003, earned many points and got into contention for world no.
1 spot during the US Open Series. On Monday, August 4, Roger was 340 points behind Andre Agassi on the ATP list. Andre lost in the quarter-final of the Canada Masters to Rainer Schuettler, and Federer had the opportunity to pass him and conquer the ATP throne for the first time.
Just a day after turning 22, Roger walked on the court against Andy Roddick on August 9 in the semi-final encounter that stood between him and the dethroning Agassi. The Swiss could not make the last step, losing 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 in an hour and 56 minutes.
Thus, Roger missed a massive opportunity of taking the ATP throne six months before he actually did that in February 2004. It was their fifth meeting on the Tour and the first win for Andy, who was super motivated to do his best against Federer after losing to him in the Wimbledon semi-final a month earlier.
The Swiss had a 4-2 advantage in the final set but failed to bring the match home from there, finishing the run in the semi-final. After the first-round loss at Roland Garros, Roddick parted ways with his longtime coach Tarik Benhabiles and hired Brad Gilbert, who would draw the best from him and carried him towards the no.
1 position in November that year. After this victory over Roger, Andy had 23 wins from 25 matches under Brad, also lifting the US Open trophy a month later. The American served at only 48% and lost serve twice from as many chances offered to Federer.
On the other hand, Roger hit ten double faults and struggled on the second serve, facing nine break chances and fending off seven of those, having a chance to seal the deal after that break in the final set but just coming short in the end.
Roddick stood on 34 winners and 23 unforced errors, while Roger finished the match with similar numbers, forging a 38-28 ratio to follow the rival's pace and perform on a higher level at some moments. Roddick earned two break chances already in the third game, converting the first when Roger netted a backhand for an early lead.
The American moved 3-1 in front with three aces, playing well from the baseline and exploiting Roger's backhand to keep the upper hand in the rallies. Federer recovered from a slow start and created a 30-0 advantage on return at 3-4, only to lose four straight points as Andy moved a game away from the set.
The American closed the opener with a service winner in game ten after just 29 minutes, keeping his second serve safe and being a more determined player from the baseline. Things went from bad to worse for Roger, defending three break chances already at the beginning of the second set.
Roger Federer had a chance to become world no. 1 in Montreal 2003.
He repelled them for a critical hold, and they both served well until game six, when Andy experienced troubles on serve after being 40-0 up. He hit a double fault to give Roger a break chance, and the Swiss converted it when Roddick sent a volley long.
Federer closed the set with a hold at love in game nine, reducing the number of errors and grabbing that lone chance on the return to clinch the set and send the encounter into a decider. Carried by this momentum, Roger broke in the early stages of the final set to get himself in the driving seat, reading Andy's serves better than in the opener and taking charge from the baseline to close that game with a backhand winner.
Federer saved two break points in game four with aces and the third with a forehand winner, refusing to surrender the serve and moving 3-1 in front. He had to dig deep again at 3-2, landing an incredible backhand crosscourt winner after a 23-stroke rally to repel another break chance and close the game with two service winners to build a 4-2 lead, moving two games away from becoming world no.
1. Hanging in there, Roddick earned another break chance following a great return in game eight and seized it with another deep one to level the score at 4-4. The American fired three service winners in the next game to move ahead, and both players held comfortably in the next three games to set up a tie break.
Andy got the first mini-break in the second point after Roger's double fault. Federer missed an easy forehand in the next one but pulled one mini-break back at 1-3 to keep himself in contention, doing his best to cross the finish line first.
Still, his fate was pretty much sealed when Roddick took the next point with a perfect running forehand winner and moved over the top when Roger landed a forehand long at 3-6. In Cincinnati, a week later, Federer had another chance to replace Agassi at the top of the ATP rankings but losing to David Nalbandian in the second round in two tie breaks.