Unlike in the current season, where he played only 13 matches, Roger Federer was among the players to beat in 2003. With slight chances for the year-end no. 1 spot and mediocre results in the last two tournaments, Federer headed to the season's ending Masters Cup in Houston.
In the first two rounds of the group stage, the Swiss had to battle against the rivals he had never beaten before, hoping to finish the season on a high note. In the first encounter, Federer faced the local favorite Andre Agassi and ousted the veteran 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 after a thriller.
Roger started all over from set number two and settled into a nice rhythm to find himself 5-3 up in the decider. Andre bounced back with a late break to extend the clash and reach a tie break, where he created two match points.
Federer stayed calm and repelled them both, sealing the breaker 9-7 to notch the first triumph over the American. Playing against another rival against whom he had a negative score, Roger produced top-class tennis to topple David Nalbandian 6-3, 6-0.
From start to finish, the Swiss had the upper hand and controlled the pace on both serve and return to oust the Argentine for the first time in six encounters. In the last round-robin encounter, the Swiss took down world no.
2 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-1 to reach the semis in style. Federer saved all three break chances and delivered four breaks of serve to stay in front and cross the finish line first.
Roger Federer beat Juan Carlos Ferrero to reach the 2003 Masters Cup semis.
"If I win all the matches in the rest of the tournament, I think I can finish the season ranked 2nd ahead of Juan Carlos.
That drove me in the clash against the Spaniard. He is above me on the ATP ranking list and beat me in Madrid the last time we played. I played well today, swinging a little more freely. In Madrid and Paris, I was struggling to control the balls.
The surface was fast; I played against good servers and experienced back issues. I had some time off, and the problems are behind me. I came to Houston early enough to prepare, and that has made the difference this week. I'm happy the season is ending nicely and that everything will be over soon.
The weekend ahead of me is very important; I have to give my best and stay on the level from the round-robin phase. It will be tough against either Andy Roddick or Guillermo Coria, and I will prepare the tactics once they finish," Roger Federer said.