Roger Federer and Marat Safin were among the best youngsters in the world in the late 90s and early 00s, with the Russian already standing at the top and the Swiss who was rushing to join him there. They were both ranked among the top-8 seeds in Miami 2003 and Marat couldn't stay in the event for too long, losing to Davide Sanguinetti in the opening encounter while Roger made a winning start, beating Luis Horna 6-2, 7-5 in an hour and 21 minutes.
After the match, Roger was asked about some notable rivalries and competitions, mentioning he had already played against Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, which was one of his dreams. In the fourth round in 2001, a teenager toppled the seven-time champion in five epic sets, enduring all the challenges in the closing stages to secure one of the best victories of his early career.
Besides Pete, Roger also brought Marat Safin into the story, praising the Russian by saying he likes to compete against him, describing Marat as a nice guy off the court. Safin won their latest match in Moscow at the end of 2002 for his first victory over Roger who celebrated in a tight battle in Rome in 2001 and twice more in 2002, defeating the Russian in the final of the Masters 1000 event in Hamburg for his first trophy at that level.
"You know, I already had a match against Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, I don't need to play that one again. Otherwise, I like to play versus Marat Safin; I think he's a nice guy off the court. We always have enjoyable encounters.
Winning a lot of matches is very important for your confidence, making you play better. You feel like you can go for more, you're better on big points; it changes your entire mental approach to the match. It's been an excellent start of the year again for me.
Last two or three years, I always played well in the opening months. I'm the guy with the most matches won or played, whatever; it's just a bonus for me."