Roger Federer was one of the busiest players on the Tour in 2003, competing in 95 matches and lifting seven ATP titles, including the first Major at Wimbledon and the first Masters Cup at the end of the season in Houston.
He had a chance to become the world no. 1 in Montreal but Andy Roddick spoiled the party for the Swiss, although it already became clear it will happen sooner or later. Federer had to wait until February 2 next year to ascend the ATP throne, earning it after lifting the second Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open a day earlier.
In the final match, the 22-year-old took down Marat Safin 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 15 minutes for the first Melbourne Park crown. The Russian missed a big part of 2003 season due to an injury and he arrived in Melbourne ranked 86th, confident in his game and abilities to play on a high level again.
A former finalist produced some first class tennis to reach the final, defeating the defending champion Andre Agassi and the top seed Andy Roddick, although with not much left for the title match. Safin did win six matches but the problem was he lost nine sets in total, including five-setters against the mentioned Americans in the previous two rounds, standing pretty much done and dusted after Roger won the opening set in the tie break of the final.
They both struggled to find the first serve but Federer had to play against just three break points, dropping serve twice. On the other hand, he was all over Marat in the return games, creating no less than 18 break opportunities and stealing rival's serve five times to bring the match home safely in straight sets.
Roger had a clear advantage in the shortest points, producing a lot of damage with his booming serve and an initial forehand that left Safin with no answer. Despite his tiredness, Marat had a slim edge in the mid-range and longer points but that wasn't enough to give him the more positive result, facing just too many break points to stand any chance against such a strong rival.
Safin was off to a great start, breaking Roger in game three when the Swiss netted an easy forehand after a double fault to find himself behind. Federer didn't have to chase the result for too long, breaking back a few minutes later with a solid forehand attack that Safin failed to control, and again in game six to take a 4-2 lead.
Marat was there to compete, though, breaking back in the following game when he forced Roger's error after his trademark backhand down the line shot that the Swiss couldn't handle. Safin was in all kind of troubles in the last game of the set, coming from a 40-15 down to fend off two set points and set up the tie break that started with four consecutive mini-breaks.
Federer seized control after that, clinching the set with a forehand down the line winner for a 7-3 and a significant lead that left tired Safin almost without a chance of making a comeback. The level of tennis dropped a little bit in set number two and it was Federer who grabbed the first break in game five, holding at love after that to increase the advantage to 4-2.
Marat broke his second racquet of the match after a double fault in the following game that gave Roger another break point, with the Russian somehow finding the way to stay unbroken and avoid a double break deficit. Despite the opportunity missed, Roger sailed through his service games, having the upper hand on the return as well and creating three set points in game nine.
Safin repelled them all but he could only prolong the set for another game, as Roger held at love again in game ten to notch the set 6-4 and move closer to the finish line. Nothing seemed to work for the Russian and he had to give his serve away in the third game of the third set, saving the first three break points with some excellent ball-striking before falling on the fourth when he netted an easy backhand.
With the victory in his sight, Roger allowed three deuces on serve in the next game but he held in the end for a 3-1 lead, putting the pressure back on Safin who had seen clear writings on the wall when he got broken again in game five.
Roger extended the advantage with a glorious forehand winner, sealing the deal when Marat sprayed a forehand mistake in game eight, celebrating the second Grand Slam title in seven months and the first at the Australian Open.