After not being able to play at his best in the first couple of tournaments in 2003, Roger Federer found the form in February to score two Davis Cup triumphs, conquer the title in Marseille and reach the semi-final in Rotterdam.
Heading to Dubai as world no. 5 and one of the title favorites, Roger claimed the title without losing a set in five matches, lifting the second trophy in three events and hoping for more of the same in Indian Wells. The Swiss had to work hard in the first match in the desert, leading 6-7, 6-4, 4-1 against Felix Mantilla before the Spaniard had to retire.
Roger had his chances at the beginning of the clash but Mantilla stayed unbroken, playing well in the rest of the set and taking it in the tie break to move closer to a victory over the favorite. Federer finally grabbed a break in set number two to bring it home safely, controlling the pace in the rest of the clash before his rival had to retire.
"It's always nice to win a match when you are not playing well. It was tough, like in any other opening encounter of the tournament; I didn't feel comfortable out there even though I had good practice sessions in the last couple of days.
Also, Felix Mantilla is tough to beat; he is an all-around player and it's hard to outplay him from the baseline. Luckily, I could break him in the second set and that probably the crucial moment. In the end, he had to give it away, not feeling well or whatever.
I wasn't playing well and didn't feel good on serve. I missed my chances at the beginning of the match and it all became much harder in the rest of the set, although I reached a tie break. That gave me positive feedback ahead of the rest of the match, trying to serve well and create some chances on the return. They came in the second set when I managed to break him, stealing the set and momentum that carried me home."