February 13, 2000: Roger Federer plays the first ATP final at the age of 18


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February 13, 2000: Roger Federer plays the first ATP final at the age of 18

At the end of 1999, Roger Federer was one of three youngest players in the top-100 together with Lleyton Hewitt and Andreas Vinciguerra, winning 13 ATP matches and closing it with a Challenger title in Brest. An 18-year-old already proved himself on the fast indoor surfaces, equipped with an effective serve, sharp groundstrokes and attacking abilities that made him the player to beat in the years to come.

2000 was another big step forward in Roger's young career, claiming 36 ATP wins to enter the top-30 and compete in two ATP finals in Marseille and Basel, on an indoor surface, of course. The Basel native was off to a shaky start of the season, winning four of the first eight matches including the third round appearance in Melbourne and a great win over Mark Philippoussis in Davis Cup.

In the following week, Roger was in Marseille where he played the first ATP final against the compatriot Marc Rosset on February 13, losing it 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 in just under two hours. Federer defeated Antony Dupuis 6-4, 6-4 in only 72 minutes in the first round, losing serve once but scoring three on the other side to move into the last 16 where he toppled a future Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-2 in swift 63 minutes for the place in the quarters.

The youngster lost just 15 points in nine service games, never facing a break point and using the fact that Johansson couldn't land the first serve in, breaking him three times to stay on the title course. Ivan Ljubicic awaited in the quarters and this time Federer had to work much harder to prevail, beating the Croat 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 in two hours and seven minutes after a great fight in the deciding set to enter the semi-final.

There, he ousted Fabrice Santoro 7-6, 7-5 in an hour and 34 minutes, playing against only two break points and overpowering the Frenchman in the closing stages of both sets to advance into his maiden ATP final. Federer made the best possible start against Rosset but he just fell short in the end, missing a chance to claim the first ATP title and having to wait for it for almost a year.

The youngster broke in the opening game of the match and increased the lead to 4-1 when Rosset sprayed a forehand error, closing the opener with three winners in game eight for a 6-2 after 30 minutes. Marc started to play better in the second set, securing a break at 2-1 when Roger sent a forehand long, holding at love in the following game to cement the lead and sealing the deal with a volley winner in game nine to send the match into a decider.

They stayed neck and neck there until 4-4 when Roger netted an easy backhand to give the serve away and allow Marc to serve for the title. Playing against match point in that tenth game, Federer fired a return winner to repel it and he erased two more with backhand winners before breaking back after a costly double fault from Rosset.

Two service winners pushed Marc 5-2 before another double fault that kept Roger in contention, with both standing two points away from the win at 5-5. Rosset moved 6-5 up with a service winner and he secured the title in the 12th point after a huge forehand error from Roger who couldn't prevail in the closing moments and steal the title away from his good friend.