Roger Federer failed to reach the ATP Finals in 2001 despite some reliable results at Majors. The Swiss improved his game in 2002 to find himself among the elite eight players at the season-ending event in Shanghai. Embracing the post-US Open swing, Roger had played in Moscow, Vienna, Madrid, Basel and Paris before traveling to China.
The Swiss wished for a strong run and passed the round-robin stage in style. Federer beat Juan Carlos Ferrero, Jiri Novak and Thomas Johansson after losing only one set, setting the semi-final clash versus world no. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.
The Aussie defeated the Swiss in the Paris Masters quarter-final and prevailed again in Shanghai in one of the season's best matches. Hewitt toppled Federer 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 in three hours of a grueling and thrilling battle!
Lleyton improved his score over Roger to 6-2 after fending off 16 out of 21 break chances. The Aussie stole the Swiss' serve six times from 13 opportunities to emerge at the top and advance into the final. Federer had more winners while hitting almost 50 unforced errors, unable to convert more break chances and overpower the rival when it mattered the most.
Lleyton created a small gap in the quickest rallies, a notable fact against a better server. On the other hand, nothing could separate them in the mid-range and more extended exchanges, with over 60 points passing the six-shot mark.
Roger broke Lleyton at love in the encounter's second game and placed a forehand down the line winner in the next one to forge a 3-0 advantage. Serving for the set at 5-3, Federer netted a forehand on the set point and hit a double fault to bring Hewitt back into contention.
Lleyton saved four set points on his serve in game ten to bring it home and gain colossal momentum. Roger lost the ground completely after squandering his chances. He sprayed a forehand error and dropped serve for the second time in a row to find himself 6-5 behind.
The Swiss stayed competitive and created two break chances in game 12 that could have sent the set into a tie break.
Roger Federer lost an epic semi-final to Lleyton Hewitt in Shanghai 2002.
Hewitt had to work hard to wrap up the set 7-5 after an hour and nine break points faced in games ten and 12!
Things went from bad to worse for the Basel native. He got broken at 15 in the second set's opening game and fell 2-0 behind after Lleyton's service winner in the next one. Facing an elimination, Federer saved a break chance in the third game and broke back at 2-3 when the Aussie hit a double fault.
The Swiss lost serve again to fall 4-3 down and find himself close to the exit door. Roger saved a match point at 4-5 with a forehand attack and broke back after another forehand down the line that Lleyton could not control.
Thus, he leveled the score at 5-5 and looked determined to force a decider. Unlike the opener, Federer had the upper hand in the crucial moments. He clinched another break in game 12 to grab the set, rattling off the last four games and saving that match point to prolong the encounter and extend his chances.
Roger had a massive opportunity to move in front after earning two break chances at 4-3. He wasted them and allowed Lleyton to close the game with a service winner. After missing his opportunities, Federer suffered a break at 4-4, with Hewitt serving for the victory in the next one.
The Aussie cracked under pressure and sent a forehand long to hand a break to Roger, who leveled the score at 5-5. However, that was not enough to push the Swiss toward the finish line. He double-faulted in game 11 to send Lleyton ahead and sprayed a forehand mistake at 5-6 to propel the rival over the finish line.