After two notable results at Majors in 2001, Roger Federer made his ATP Finals debut in Shanghai 2002. Federer scored three round-robin wins, creating a perfect start at the premium ATP event and reaching the last four in style.
The young Swiss defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero, Jiri Novak and Thomas Johansson in his group, arranging the semi-final meeting against the world's best player, Lleyton Hewitt. Two great rivals battled for three hours before the Aussie prevailed 7-5, 5-7, 7-5, sending the Swiss out of the competition.
Hewitt ousted Federer for the sixth time in eight encounters, working hard in all three sets and emerging at the top. World no. 1 saved 16 out of 21 break points, struggling in his games but reducing the deficit to stay competitive.
Roger played against 13 break points and experienced six breaks, including the crucial ones in the closing stages of sets one and three. Federer played aggressive tennis, hitting more winners but spraying almost 50 unforced errors.
Lleyton followed Roger's pace in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, and nothing stood between them in the mid-range and most advanced exchanges. The debutant made a reliable start, securing a break at love in the encounter's second game and firing a forehand down the line winner in the next one for 3-0.
Roger served for the set at 5-3 and netted a forehand on a set point. The Swiss hit a double fault to lose serve and experience a massive blow that would cost him dearly. The Aussie reduced the deficit and prolonged the battle before facing more issues in game ten.
Hewitt denied four set points, leveling the score and 5-5 and gaining a boost. Roger got broken for the second straight time in game 11 after a wayward forehand, falling behind but remaining competitive. Federer created two break points at 5-6, eager to extend the battle and reach a tie break.
Lleyton survived and brought the set home 7-5 after an hour and nine minutes, rattling off five straight games from 5-2 down!
Roger Federer lost in the 2002 ATP Finals semi-final to Lleyton Hewitt.
Roger could not stop his downfall, losing serve at 15 at the beginning of the second set and falling 7-5, 2-0 behind.
Facing the exit door, Federer denied a break point in the third game and held to reduce the deficit. Hewitt served at 3-2 and hit a double fault, losing serve for the second time and bringing his rival to the positive side.
Instead of building on that, Roger experienced another break in game seven and fell 4-3 behind. The Swiss held in game nine for 4-5 before facing a match point in the next one on the Aussie's serve. Federer fired up his forehand, saving it and breaking back to lock the result at 5-5 and stay in contention.
Roger gained a boost and secured another break at 6-5 to steal the set, rattling off four games and forcing a decider despite facing a match point. Federer built a massive chance to break Hewitt at 4-3 and seal the deal, creating two break points.
Lleyton saved them and landed a service winner for a pivotal hold and 4-4. Roger wasted his chances and lost serve in game nine, pushing Lleyton 5-4 up and closer to the top. The drama continued when Hewitt sprayed a forehand error, losing serve and cracking under pressure.
Federer served in game 11 and hit a double fault to experience another break and offer his opponent another chance to serve out for the win. Lleyton emerged at the top after Roger's forehand error in game 12, celebrating a notable victory and ending the Swiss' first ATP Finals run in the semi-final.