When Roger Federer lost his first ATP final in a thriller



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When Roger Federer lost his first ATP final in a thriller

At the end of 1999, Roger Federer was one of the three youngest players in the top-100 alongside Lleyton Hewitt and Andreas Vinciguerra, following 13 ATP wins and a Challenger title in Brest. An 18-year-old had already proved himself on the fast indoor surfaces, equipped with a booming serve, sharp groundstrokes and attacking abilities that made him the player to beat in the years to come.

The following season stood as another big step forward in Roger's young career, as he claimed 36 ATP victories in 2000 to enter the top-30 thanks to a couple of ATP finals in Marseille and Basel, both on an indoor surface.

The Basel native was off to a shaky start of the season, winning four of the first eight encounters, including the third-round appearance in Melbourne and a great win over Mark Philippoussis in the Davis Cup. In the following week, Roger was in Marseille, where he played the first ATP final against the compatriot Marc Rosset on February 13, losing it 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 in just under two hours.

Federer defeated Antony Dupuis 6-4, 6-4 in only 72 minutes in the first round, getting broken once and scoring three beaks to move into the last 16. The youngster toppled a future Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-2 in swift 63 minutes for a place in the quarters, looking good so far.

Roger lost only 15 points in nine service games, never faced a break point and used the fact that Johansson could not land the first serve in to break him three times and stay on the title course. His current coach Ivan Ljubicic awaited in the quarters, and Federer had to work much harder this time, beating the Croat 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 in two hours and seven minutes after a great fight in the deciding set to advance into the semi-final.

Roger Federer lost to Marc Rosset in the 2000 Marseille final at 18.

The Swiss ousted Fabrice Santoro 7-6, 7-5 in an hour and 34 minutes, playing against only two break chances and overpowering the Frenchman in the closing stages of both sets to find himself in the maiden ATP final.

Federer made the best start against Rosset in the first all-Swiss ATP final but just fell short in the end, missing a chance to claim the first ATP title and having to wait for almost a year to change that. The youngster broke in the match's opening game and increased the lead to 4-1 when Rosset sprayed a forehand error in game five.

Roger secured the opener with three winners at 5-2 after 30 minutes. Marc bounced back in set number two and grabbed a break at 2-1 when Roger sent a forehand long. A few minutes later, the more experienced Swiss held at love to cement the lead and sealed the deal with a volley winner at 5-3 to bring a decider.

They stayed neck and neck until 4-4 when Roger netted an easy backhand to give the serve away and allow Marc to serve for the title. Playing against a match point in the tenth game, Federer fired a return winner to repel it and erased two more with backhand winners before breaking back after Rosett's costly double fault to stay alive.

In the tie break, two service winners pushed Marc 5-2 before another double fault that kept Roger in contention, with both standing two points away from the trophy at 5-5. Rosset moved 6-5 up with a service winner and secured the title in the 12th point after Federer's colossal forehand mistake.