Following the first Major success at Wimbledon in July, Roger Federer became world no. 1 contender in the rest of the 2003 season. The Swiss had everything in his hands that summer, moving a win away from the ATP throne in Montreal, only to suffer a thrilling loss to Andy Roddick in the semi-final.
David Nalbandian took down the Swiss in Cincinnati and the US Open, taking a lot of points away from Roger, who hoped for a better run during the indoor season. Winning the title in Vienna, Federer went to Madrid as one of the favorites, playing well in the opening two rounds to reach the quarters.
In the opening match, the Swiss took down Alex Corretja 6-4, 6-3 in 70 minutes.
Federer lost 11 points in ten service games, getting broken once in the worst moment. That happened while serving for the opener, which is never a good sign, recovering his game instantly to secure the set with another break.
Roger was the better player in set number two, taking it with a single break to move into the next round. There, he defeated Mardy Fish 6-3, 7-6 in an hour and 32 minutes to secure the place in the quarters. Serving at only 50%, Roger hit four aces and five double faults, facing three break chances and erasing two of those to limit the damage.
On the other hand, Fish couldn't follow that pace, struggling on the second serve and getting broken twice to propel the Swiss over the finish line. Asked about the year-end no. 1 favorite, Roger picked Andy Roddick rather than himself, saying he would do anything to catch the American during the indoor season and claim the honor.
"I still don't feel as good as in the end in Vienna; it takes some time and I'm still holding back a few shots. Hopefully, I will feel better in the upcoming matches, especially on serve. Also, it's never easy against Mardy, he has a strong serve and explosive return.
When you win a couple of matches and reach the later rounds, you start to feel the ball better; that gives you the courage to chase lines. Right now, I'm going with safer shots inside the line, as it's not easy to control it.
The surface here in Madrid is speedy; the balls are heavy but they still fly. The conditions are much different than in Vienna. I don't know what I need to become the year-end no. 1 ahead of Roddick or Ferrero. I have to go further than them to have a chance. Roddick is in the best position, and he probably deserves to finish at the top," Roger Federer said.