Roger Federer squandered the opportunity to become world no. 1 in the summer of 2003, losing to Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian in Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open. Right after New York, Federer had to embrace a long trip down to Melbourne, leading his country against Australia in the Davis Cup World Group semi-final.
Alongside his brilliant run at Wimbledon that secured the first Major title for him, Roger was on a roll in the Davis Cup that year, kicking off the campaign with two singles wins over the Netherlands in Arnhem. In another away tie, Federer and his teammates took down France in Toulouse at the beginning of April.
Roger delivered three points for his country, setting the clash against Australia in Melbourne in September. Flying from one part of the world towards another, Federer did his best to prepare for the action at Rod Laver Arena, trying to guide Switzerland into the final.
Like at Wimbledon, he defeated Mark Philippoussis before that thrilling doubles encounter that he and Marc Rosset lost to Wayne Arthurs and Todd Woodbridge in five epic sets. In the third singles rubber, Lleyton Hewitt ousted Roger 5-7, 2-6, 7-6, 7-5, 6-1 to secure the third point for the home nation and send them through.
Speaking about that match at Madrid Masters, Federer said it was one of his toughest defeat in a career, previously never losing after taking the opening two sets.
Hewitt won only five points more than Roger, with both players dominating in one set.
The Swiss had more winners and more unforced errors, keeping the points on his racquet but fading from the court after a tight fourth set.
Lleyton wasted a game point at 5-6 in the opener, getting broken to give Roger an initial advantage. From 2-2 in set number two, Federer rattled off five straight games to open up a 7-5, 6-2, 1-0 lead, marching towards the finish line in those moments.
Serving for the triumph at 5-3, Federer got broken and allowed Hewitt to stay in touch. The Aussie had the momentum now, taking the tie break and forging a 5-2 advantage in set number four. Making one last push, Federer climbed back to 5-5, losing steam in those moments and dropping eight of the final nine games to push Lleyton over the top.
"That Davis Cup loss against Lleyton Hewitt was one of the toughest ones of my career. I don't think I ever lost a match after winning the opening two sets and serving for the win. I had the upper hand in the first two sets, playing really well.
I pulled a break back in the fourth set, still losing it 7-5. I was a bit tired from the doubles encounter but I have to give full credit to Lleyton, he didn't miss much from the third set. We were in different positions, with him trying to seal the deal and me who was just hoping to level the score at 2-2. It wasn't hard to forget about that match," Roger Federer said.