February 16, 2003: Roger Federer tops Jonas Bjorkman to conquer Marseille


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February 16, 2003: Roger Federer tops Jonas Bjorkman to conquer Marseille

After winning the maiden ATP title and advancing into the last eight at Wimbledon in 2001, Roger Federer was ready to chase some big goals in the following season, lifting the first Masters 1000 crown in Hamburg and entering the top-10 on the next morning, still at the age of 20.

Roger had the opportunity to make a debut at Masters Cup in Shanghai at the end of the season, losing to Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-final and preparing to conquer the tennis world in 2003. The 21-year-old won five out of eight matches in January, losing to David Nalbandian in the fourth round of the Australian Open in five sets before scoring two wins in Davis Cup against the Netherlands to build the momentum.

Heading to Marseille for the fourth consecutive time (also the last), Roger went all the way to win his fifth ATP title, three years after competing in the first ATP final there. Roger kicked off the campaign in under an hour, with Ivan Ljubicic withdrawing after the opening set tie break to send Federer into the second round where he defeated Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-3 in just 67 minutes.

The Swiss might scored a quick win although he had to work hard to earn it, fending off ten out of 11 break points to limit the damage behind the initial shot and move into the quarter-final where he faced Raemon Sluiter.

The Dutch won a set but Roger prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in an hour and 48 minutes despite having more problems on serve, having to defend 11 out of 13 break chances to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard, breaking Sluiter three times to book the place in the semis.

There, he finally delivered better performance on serve, ousting Karol Kucera 7-6, 6-3 in an hour and 26 minutes, facing no break points and stealing the Slovak's serve twice in the second set to advance into his 11th ATP final.

On February 16, Roger Federer defeated Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 7-6 in an hour and 24 minutes to lift the fifth ATP trophy and crack the top-5 for the second time in a career. This was their second match and the second win for the Swiss who dominated with his first serve to face only two break points, losing serve once and keeping the pressure on the Swede all the time.

Bjorkman had a small advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes although that couldn't give him at least a set since Roger destroyed him in the mid-range points from five to eight strokes. Hitting more winners and forcing more errors, Federer had ten break opportunities and he converted three to wrap up the win in straight sets, making the best possible start and sealing the deal in the second set tie break after a comeback.

Roger scored an immediate break for the perfect start of the encounter, prevailing in a longer rally to forge the lead and cementing it with four winners in game two. The Swede saved two break points in game three to get his name on the scoreboard before Roger broke him again at 3-1 on his fifth break chance, increasing the advantage to 4-1 with a service winner.

Three good serves in the eighth game clinched the opener for Fed erer who finally experienced a break point at the start of the second set after a forehand return winner from Bjorkman. The Swede couldn't convert the first but the next one got the job done for him after a weak backhand slice from the youngster.

Jonas moved 3-0 up and he was 30-0 up on the return in game four before Roger won four straight points to avoid another break and stay just one step behind the rival. That proved to be even more critical when Federer broke back in game five, holding at 15 to level the score at 3-3 and sending the set into a tie break after six easy holds on both sides.

Roger opened it with three winners for a 3-1 lead and earned two match points with a beautiful volley winner. Bjorkman made one last push to save them both before Federer set the third with a backhand down the line winner. This proved to be the lucky one, celebrating the title when Jonas netted an easy forehand and starting a stellar journey that would bring him so much more in the rest of the year.