Roger Federer became one of the world's best players in 2002, lifting his first Masters 1000 trophy in Hamburg in May and cracking the top-10 on the following day. The youngster could not keep that form for too long, though, suffering early losses at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and dropping six out of nine encounters ahead of the US Open, where he advanced into the fourth round.
Fighting for a place at the Masters Cup for the first time, Federer embraced a rock-solid indoor streak, winning the Vienna title, reaching the quarter-final in Madrid and the semi-final at home in Basel. Trying to advance into the title match in his hometown for the third straight year, Federer experienced a tight 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 defeat to David Nalbandian in two hours and 13 minutes.
The home favorite overcame a 5-3 deficit in the opener and had a break advantage in sets two and three, only to find himself on the losing side. Roger found himself at the Masters Cup in Shanghai and scored three round-robin victories to find himself into the semi-final and finish the season on a high note.
The following 2003 did not start that well, as the Swiss had to deal with a leg injury in Doha and Sydney for concerns ahead of the season's first Major in Melbourne. There, Roger defeated Flavio Saretta and Lars Burgsmuller in straight sets to move into the last 32, where the Swede Andreas Vinciguerra fell 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 36 minutes.
Roger Federer faced David Nalbandian at the 2003 Australian Open.
Federer dropped 17 points in 14 service games, suffered one break and maintained the pressure on the other side to earn five breaks that carried him home in no time.
Thus, the Swiss set the last 16 duel versus David Nalbandian, trying to beat him for the first time in professional matches. "My next rival is David Nalbandian. I lost to him in Basel and Monte Carlo and scored a victory in the semi-final of the junior Orange Bowl in 1998.
That Basel loss was tough for me; I should have won it, and I'm looking forward to taking revenge here in Melbourne. It will not be easy, though; he has a great backhand and return; his all-around game is on a high level. He is more aggressive than most of the Argentines, and I will have to be careful," Roger Federer said.