Roger Federer was one of the players to beat in the first couple of months in 2003, failing to reach the quarter-final at the Australian Open but winning titles in Marseille and Dubai for the most wins on the Tour. The Swiss experienced early losses in Indian Wells and Miami before flying back to Europe and finding the winning path again in the Davis Cup against France in Toulouse.
After a couple of weeks, Roger started his clay-court spring swing with the title in Munich, having no time to celebrate it as he had to play in Rome just a couple of days later, facing Paul-Henri Mathieu in the opening match.
The Swiss grabbed a 6-2, 7-5 victory in an hour and 27 minutes, trailing in set number two before turning things around with a double break to book the place in the next round. Speaking about the upcoming Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Federer said he expects good results at both after early exits in 2002 but also the fact that more players can beat him on clay in comparison to grass.
A year ago, Hicham Arazi toppled him in Paris after playing rock-solid tennis in the decisive moments, experiencing another unexpected loss at the All England Club to inexperienced Mario Ancic who beat him in straight sets.
"Grass is more natural to my game than clay, even though I grew up on the slowest surface. Wimbledon is more like poker because you hardly play on grass. It's hard to say where I have more chances but more players are capable of beating me on clay than grass, that's for sure.
Last year, I lost in the first round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon and the one at the All England Club was tougher for me to take. Arazi played a great match in Paris and I had the wrong tactics. The conditions didn't work my way either due to the rain.
Also, he played incredible tennis, delivering his best strokes when it mattered the most and leaving me empty-handed. At Wimbledon against Ancic, I tried to serve & volley and be aggressive but the court was slow and that wouldn't work.
I had no rhythm or confidence, feeling something was wrong with my game and that I didn't play well. In the end, I was staying back while serving while Mario was rushing to the net, although I expected him to stay on the baseline; that was a big shock to me and I needed some time to get over it. It hurt me a lot to lose that match in straight sets."