After two incredible seasons in 2004 and 2005 that had pushed him above all the other players on the Tour, Roger Federer raised his level even more in 2006 to score 92 wins from 97 matches and lift 12 titles. Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray were the only players who defeated Roger that year, but that all could have changed on October 6 when the Swiss faced world no.
1078 Takao Suzuki in the Tokyo Open quarter-final. The 30-year-old Japanese had not played since Seoul Challenger in October last year, making the best possible return in front of the home fans and defeating Simon Greul and Paradorn Srichapan to reach the first ATP quarter-final since Tokyo 2001!
Takao successfully delivered his best tennis on the home ground and pushed world no. 3 Lleyton Hewitt to the limits in 2004. Two years later, he fought even harder against Roger, suffering a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 loss in two hours and four minutes after a mighty close encounter!
In Tokyo 2006, Roger Federer had to work hard against the rival from outside top-1000.
Federer claimed 13 points more than the opponent, although that was not enough to push him over the top earlier, with one break for each player in the opening two sets before that thrilling decider that went down to the wire.
Takao was ready to give his 200% against the mighty rival at Tokyo's Ariake Colosseum. He broke Roger in the third game and closed the opening set with a hold at 5-4, dominating with his serve and slice backhand to move closer to a career-best victory.
With no room for errors, Roger grabbed a break at 5-5 in the second set and clinched it with a hold in the next one while hoping for a more relaxed decider. Instead, Suzuki pushed world no. 1 to the limits to reach a tie break before losing it 7-3 to send Federer over the top and miss the opportunity to stun the entire tennis world.
"There's always the fear of losing when you are a set down. It's a normal feeling, but you try to think of ways of getting back in front. It was a close match for both players, and we were both holding serve comfortably.
Suzuki is out of the top-1000, but that's not his true position. I could see the headlines: Federer loses to guy out of the top-1000, and that's not much fun. The victory saved my image. His serve is incredible for a little guy, and his movement made it hard for me.
He mixed his serve up very well, and maybe I should not be happy about not making many returns. I had to dig deep to break him," Roger Federer said.