The Agonizing Defeat: Roger Federer Reflects on his Toughest Loss

Roger Federer squandered two sets to love lead against Lleyton Hewitt in 2003

by Jovica Ilic
The Agonizing Defeat: Roger Federer Reflects on his Toughest Loss

Roger Federer experienced one of his most challenging losses in the 2003 Davis Cup semi-final. Roger led Switzerland against Australia in Melbourne and squandered two sets to love lead versus Lleyton Hewitt. Federer missed an opportunity to become world no.

1 that summer, losing to Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian in Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open. Right after New York, Federer had to embrace a long trip down to Melbourne, leading his country against Australia in the Davis Cup World Group semi-final.

Alongside his brilliant run at Wimbledon that secured the first Major title for him, Roger was on a roll in the Davis Cup that year, kicking off the campaign with two singles wins over the Netherlands in Arnhem. In another away tie, Federer and his teammates took down France in Toulouse at the beginning of April.

Roger delivered three points for his country, setting the clash against Australia in Melbourne in September. Flying from one part of the world to another, Federer did his best to prepare for the action at Rod Laver Arena, trying to lead Switzerland into the final.

Like at Wimbledon, he defeated Mark Philippoussis before a thrilling doubles encounter that he and Marc Rosset lost to Wayne Arthurs and Todd Woodbridge in five epic sets. In the third singles rubber, Lleyton Hewitt ousted Roger 5-7, 2-6, 7-6, 7-5, 6-1 to secure the third point for the home nation and send them into the final.

Speaking about the match at the Madrid Masters a few weeks later, Federer said it was one of his toughest defeats in a career, never losing after taking the opening two sets before. Hewitt won only five points more than Roger, with both players dominating in one set.

Roger Federer squandered a massive advantage versus Lleyton Hewitt in 2003.

The Swiss had more winners and 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.

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 toward the finish line. Serving for the triumph at 5-3, Federer got broken and allowed Hewitt to stay in touch. The Aussie grabbed the momentum and clinched the tie break 7-2 to keep himself alive.

Carried by the partisan crowd, the Aussie forged a 5-2 lead in the fourth set. Making one last push, Federer climbed back to 5-5, looking good to emerge at the top. However, he lost steam in those moments and dropped eight of the final nine games to push Lleyton over the top.

"That Davis Cup loss against Lleyton Hewitt was one of the toughest ones of my career. I do not think I ever lost a match after winning the opening two sets and serving for the win. I had the upper hand in the first two sets, playing well.

I pulled a break back in the fourth set and still lost it 7-5. I was a bit tired from the doubles encounter, but I have to give full credit to Lleyton; he did not miss much from the third set. We were in different positions, with him trying to seal the deal and me hoping to level the score at 2-2. It was not hard to forget about that match," Roger Federer said.

Roger Federer Lleyton Hewitt