Roger Federer won his first Wimbledon crown in 2003 and began a stellar journey to the ATP throne, becoming No. 1 after lifting his second Major trophy in Melbourne in early 2004. Those were the times when the gap between the top players and the rest of the tour still wasn't that big, and Roger made a name for himself and showed why he would rule the tennis world for the next four years.
After Melbourne, the Swiss won titles in Dubai, Indian Wells and Hamburg to distance himself from the chasing pack, suffering the only setback at Roland Garros where former champion Gustavo Kuerten stopped him in the third round.
It was grass time, and Roger was back in his prime, defending titles at Halle and Wimbledon as he quickly transitioned from grass to clay to conquer the home event in Gstaad. After a well-earned break, Federer returned to the court in Toronto, winning his fourth Masters 1000 crown thanks to a 7-5, 6-3 win over No.2 Andy Roddick.
Thus, the Swiss star became the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1979 with three ATP titles in a row on three different surfaces (the Swede followed a similar path, taking Wimbledon, Bastad and Toronto)! Federer was back in the office in Cincinnati two days after winning his first title in Canada, meeting Dominik Hrbaty in the first round (the top seeds didn't get a first-round bye back then).
The Slovak stunned the best player in the world 1-6, 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 50 minutes and broke Roger's winning streak of 23 straight wins! It was the best run of Federer's career at the time, and the loss was a huge surprise considering his form and how he won the first set.
Federer is far from the top
During the interview, Jose Higueras brought up another incident involving Roger Federer to showcase the Swiss' willingness to experiment. "When I first met Roger, we started watching tapes of his matches, from one afternoon till one or two in the morning.
That's when I realized that he never hit a forehand drop shot on clay," Higueras said. "So, I asked him, "Roger, why don't you use your drop shot on the forehand side?" He said, "Why would I do that? I have a huge forehand!
So we got into a conversation about the advantages of favoring that shot. People think it is not an offensive shot, but it's an extremely offensive shot. I said to him, "Just imagine you're playing someone who is 10 feet behind the baseline.
You have two shots to hit, down the line or a cross-court forehand. But if you have a third option, it’s going to force the other guy to change his position." [After that], it didn't take him too long to actually start using the shot," Higueras said.