Houston hosted the ATP Finals in 2003 and 2004, and Roger Federer was a player to beat! The Swiss claimed his first title at the prestigious ATP event in 2003 and defended it a year later over Lleyton Hewitt. The Swiss ousted the Aussie 6-2, 6-2 in 67 minutes, with the rain reducing the encounter and turning it into a best-of-three battle.
Thus, it became the first best-of-three ATP Finals title clash since 1979! Roger lost only one set in the opening four matches, passing the robin-robin stage and beating Marat Safin in the semi-final after that historical tie break.
Lleyton lost to Roger in the round-robin duel. However, he reached the last four and met the Swiss again in the title clash. It was their 15th match, and Federer moved 8-7 in front after trailing in their initial encounters.
Roger ousted Lleyton for the sixth time in 2004, finding the winning formula against one of his closest rivals. Like in their US Open final duel, Federer had the upper hand from start to finish. The defending champion dropped 11 points in nine service games, keeping his rival away from deuces or break points.
Roger could attack on the return, and Lleyton cracked under pressure. Hewitt served at only 51%, losing almost half of the points in his games and facing eight break points. Federer seized three, enough to control the pace and lift the trophy.
Roger Federer claimed his second ATP Finals title in a row in 2004.
Roger kept his backhand safe, spraying 12 errors from that wing and remaining strong in the exchanges. The Swiss moved brilliantly, hitting every ball in full swing and making the difference.
Roger forged a 17-11 lead in service winners, adding 19 from the field and leaving Lleyton on seven. Thus, the Swiss fired twice as many direct points as his opponent, creating the victory in that segment. Federer stayed on 16 unforced errors, a tolerable number considering his aggression.
Roger left Lleyton far behind in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, creating a 45-21 gap and doing the damage with his initial shot or the first groundstroke. Federer had a massive advantage in the mid-range segment between five and eight strokes, overpowering Hewitt 21-9.
The Aussie grabbed ten of the 16 most extended exchanges, but it was insufficient to keep him safe or improve his chances. Federer made a strong start, breaking in the encounter's second game. He dropped five points in five service games, firing a forehand winner at 5-3 and sealing the opener in style.
Lleyton battled hard at the beginning of the second set, fending off three break points and staying in touch. However, he netted a backhand in the fifth game, pushing Roger in front and closer to the finish line. Federer shifted into a higher gear, serving well and delivering another break in game seven.
The Swiss served for the title at 5-2 and landed a service winner to emerge at the top and celebrate his second consecutive ATP Finals crown. Interestingly, Hewitt achieved that before him, lifting trophies in 2001 and 2002 before Federer stepped onto the scene.