Cracking the top-10 in May 2002 after the first Masters 1000 title in Hamburg, Roger Federer claimed another crown in Vienna in the closing stages of the season, securing the place at the Masters Cup for the first time. In Shanghai, Roger scored all three round-robin wins to advance into the semi-final, losing to world no.
1 Lleyton Hewitt to finish a grueling season that saw him playing 80 encounters overall. The young Swiss failed to recover for the beginning of 2003 and get back at 100%, struggling with knee injuries and also hurting the right groin in Doha during the quarter-final defeat to Jan-Michael Gambill.
Moving to Sydney where he won the title a year ago, Federer experienced the first-round exit, winning only five games against a clay-courter Franco Squillari and finishing his campaign after just 54 minutes. After the match, Federer explained his problems and shared thoughts about the long season, especially for those who have to play the Masters Cup or the Davis Cup final.
Roger said that the Australian Open probably comes way too early during the season, with only a couple of pre-tournament tests and challenges. Also, he mentioned the gap between Indian Wells and Wimbledon that has two Majors and five Masters 1000 events, describing it as a challenging but lovely period of the year.
"Every player has a different approach. Some of us work for the entire month and some took a few weeks off. In my case, I had a short break after the Masters Cup but I still think I got the most from the preparation period.
Hopefully, it will pay off at the Australian Open if I play injury-free. I had 16 days off the court after the defeat in Shanghai and four of five days around Christmas. In my opinion, the season is too long, especially if you reach the Masters Cup or play the Davis Cup final.
The Australian Open is probably too early in the season with not enough leading up tournaments for such a huge event. There are also many notable tournaments in an almost back-to-back way. Between Indian Wells and Wimbledon, I only play Masters 1000 events and Grand Slams and that's a tough schedule that I still like.
That's something one player can't change or decide; all of us should get together and talk about an issue like this. Still, it seems impossible because every player has different points. Some of them want more clay events, the other more weeks on grass; the same goes for the number of tournaments in the calendar.
In the end, we are all egoists, all tennis players in one way. All we care about is ourselves because this is not a team sport, except for the Davis Cup; that's why it is very tough to get together, even with your friends on tour."