Roger Federer made a name for himself after reaching the quarter-final at Wimbledon in 2001, dethroning the seven-time champion Pete Sampras in five sets before losing to Tim Henman in the battle for the last four. A year later, Federer would lose in the opening round at the All England Club to a young gun Mario Ancic in straight sets, suffering one of the worst losses of his young career after being one of the pre-tournament favorites.
Asked about that match in Rome 2003 after beating Paul-Henri Mathieu, Roger said he never felt comfortable on the court against the Croat who forged a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 triumph on June 25. In what was his first Grand Slam match for the junior Wimbledon finalist from 2000, ranked 154th at the moment and having to qualify for the main draw as one of the youngest players in the field, entering only the second ATP event after Miami in March.
The defending champion Goran Ivanisevic was not in the draw and another hard-hitting player from Split was there to replace him, firing one booming serve after another to keep Federer without any rhythm, overpowering the Swiss on the return as well.
Ancic needed an hour and 40 minutes to take down the most prominent youngster at that moment, repelling five out of six break chances and stealing Roger's serve on three occasions to notch straight-sets triumph, his first on the ATP level!
Mario was the youngest player to make a winning Wimbledon Centre Court debut since Bjorn Borg in distant 1973, drawing only positive vibes from the big scene and delivering a barrage of aggressive and attacking strokes to leave the opponent on the back foot and celebrate the proudest moment in a career up to that point!
Federer had to play from the baseline with Ancic rushed to the net to keep the rallies on his racquet, doing everything right and crossing the finish line in the strongest possible way. "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."