When John McEnroe praised young Roger Federer's talent

Tennis - At the Australian Open 2004, Roger Federer defeated Lleyton Hewitt and received inspiring words from McEnroe

by Jovica Ilic
When John McEnroe praised young Roger Federer's talent

Roger Federer entered the 2004 season with high hopes following five straight top-10 wins at the Masters Cup in Houston two months earlier. Seeking his first notable result at the Australian Open and the ATP throne, Federer played without a coach in Melbourne and defeated Alex Bogomolov Jr., Jeff Morrison and Todd Reid in the opening three rounds to march into the last 16.

Roger faced Lleyton Hewitt for the tenth time in the fourth round, hoping to score the third victory over the home favorite. Lleyton had an early lead in the rivalry against Roger, scoring seven wins from nine clashes and wishing for more in front of the home crowd on Rod Laver Arena.

In the 2003 Davis Cup semi-final, Lleyton came from two sets to love down against Roger at the same stadium to deliver a fantastic victory for his country, looking to repeat that performance and remain on the title course.

Instead, Federer scored a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 triumph in two hours and 18 minutes for the best Australian Open result and a place in the quarters. Roger erased six out of seven break chances to keep the pressure on the other side of the net and took charge from set number two to advance into the next round.

Hewitt made a solid start but faded from the court after that, getting broken five times from 13 opportunities offered to Roger for another failure at the home Major. Federer had around 50 winners against Hewitt's 15, spraying more errors but controlling the pace from the second set to arrange the quarter-final meeting with David Nalbandian.

Roger Federer played well at the 2004 Australian Open to reach the quarters.

Roger dominated the shortest and mid-range rallies and followed Lleyton's numbers in the most advanced exchanges to outplay the rival in style.

Federer made a couple of errors to lose four straight points in the first game and get broken. In the next one, Lleyton saved two break chances to stay ahead and barely dropped a point on serve in the remaining games to take the opener 6-4.

Roger stayed focused at the beginning of the second set and clinched four consecutive points in game six for his first break and a 4-2 advantage. A few minutes later, he survived a break chance to cement the lead and fought off a couple more at 5-3 to grab the set and level the overall score.

Federer was the only player on the court in the third set, producing high numbers on both serve and return to deliver a bagel and move closer to the finish line. In the fourth, the Swiss earned a crucial break at 2-2 and repelled a break chance in the closing stages at 5-4 to move over the top with a smash winner.

After the encounter, John McEnroe praised Roger's talent and shotmaking abilities, describing him as one of the most talented players he had ever seen! "David Nalbandian will be a different opponent, already from the serve.

Nalbandian seeks angels and backhands down the line, and I will try to avenge the last year's Melbourne defeat. It was nice to hear those words from John McEnroe," Roger Federer said.

Roger Federer Australian Open Lleyton Hewitt