Roger Federer recalls: 'Facing Lleyton Hewitt is always exciting'

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Roger Federer recalls: 'Facing Lleyton Hewitt is always exciting'

Following an excellent 2003 season that saw him winning Wimbledon and the ATP Masters Cup, Roger Federer was ready for more in 2004. Parting ways with Peter Lundgren after over three years, Federer went to Melbourne without a coach but still as one of the favorites.

In his first official match with no trainer, Federer defeated Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in an hour and a half. The Swiss had the upper hand from start to finish, dropping 15 points in his games and keeping the pressure on the other side.

Facing another rival ranked outside the top-100, Federer toppled Jeff Morrison 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 34 minutes to advance into the third round. Roger erased all four break chances and delivered four breaks to move over the top and remain on the title course.

The third round brought another lower-ranked rival, and Federer had no troubles in a commanding 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 victory over Todd Reid. It was over in 74 minutes, with the Swiss player getting broken for the first time in the tournament.

He earned no less than eight breaks to outplay the Aussie and march over the finish line, setting the clash against Lleyton Hewitt. In their previous match on the same court in September last year, Hewitt ousted Federer 5-7, 2-6, 7-6, 7-5, 6-1 to secure the third point for the home nation against Switzerland in the Davis Cup semi-final.

Hewitt won only five points more than Roger, with both players dominating in one set. The Swiss had more winners and more unforced errors, keeping the points on his racquet but fading from the court after a tight fourth set.

Lleyton wasted a game point at 5-6 in the opener and got broken to give Roger an initial advantage.

Roger Federer was ready for Lleyton Hewitt challenge at 2004 Australian Open.

From 2-2 in set number two, Federer rattled off five straight games to open up a 7-5, 6-2, 1-0 lead and march towards the finish line.

Serving for the triumph at 5-3, Federer got broken and allowed Hewitt to stay in touch. The Aussie gained momentum and took the set into a tie break to extend his chances. Lleyton forged a 5-2 advantage in the fourth set before Roger climbed back to 5-5.

The Swiss lost ground in the worst moment and dropped eight of the remaining nine games to propel the Aussie over the top and experience one of his worst losses on the Tour. Roger was ready to change his poor record against Lleyton at the Australian Open at the beginning of the new season, feeling confident about his game and believing he could go all the way.

"I'm looking forward to facing Lleyton Hewitt in the next round. It's a good match-up, with different games and styles; we have always had exciting encounters. He has a good record against me; that's his advantage.

Hopefully, I can change that. In one of my victories, I had to save a match point. Otherwise, it could have been 9-1 in his favor, but also 5-5. These courts are tough to handle physically; I always get a lot of muscle pain from playing on them, even in quick matches.

Back home in Switzerland, I practice on these courts, but I have difficulties when I come here. That's how it is," Roger Federer said.