In the clash of the young guns, Lleyton Hewitt had an advantage over Roger Federer in their early meetings. Facing for the first time in Lyon 1999, Hewitt knew how to tame the rival's shots and impose his strokes, winning seven of their first nine encounters.
In the 2003 Davis Cup semi-final, Lleyton came from two sets to love down against Roger in Melbourne to seal the deal for Australia, with two rivals meeting on the same court in the fourth round of the Australian Open next January.
Seeking his first notable result at the Australian Open, Federer took down Alex Bogomolov Jr., Jeff Morrison and Todd Reid in the opening three rounds, dropping 20 games in nine sets and hoping to end Lleyton's dream of winning the home Major.
Leaving that tough Davis Cup defeat behind him, Federer toppled the Aussie 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 in two hours and 18 minutes, advancing to his first Australian Open quarter-final. Blasting 14 aces, Roger erased six out of seven break chances to keep his serve safe after an early setback that cost him the opener, dominating the rest of the clash to march into the last eight.
Hewitt had the upper hand in the first set but that was all we saw from him, getting broken five times from 13 opportunities offered to Roger for another failure in front of the home crowd. Federer had three times more winners than Hewitt, spraying more errors but doing enough to control the pace from the second set and arrange the quarter-final meeting with David Nalbandian, who ousted him a year ago in a thriller.
Roger had the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, following Lleyton's numbers in the most advanced rallies to seal the deal in style. From 40-15 in the first game, Federer lost four straight points to suffer a break and give Hewitt an early momentum.
At the Australian Open 2004, Roger Federer defeated Lleyton Hewitt in four sets.
The Aussie fended off two break chances in the next game to confirm the break, barely losing a point on serve in the rest of the set to take it 6-4.
Roger survived a break chance at the beginning of the second set to avoid the same scenario, clinching four consecutive points in game six for a break and a 4-2 advantage. He saved a break point a few minutes later to remain in front, erasing a couple more at 5-3 to grab the set and level the overall score.
The third set turned out to be a disaster for the home favorite, getting broken in the first game after being 40-15 in front and experiencing two more breaks to allow Roger to serve a bagel and gain a massive boost. The Swiss earned a crucial break at 2-2 in the fourth set, fending off a break chance in the tenth game and moving over the top with a smash winner for the third win over Lleyton and the quarters.
"I took good things from my previous encounters against Lleyton, although we haven't played that much since I entered the top-10. This time I played better than him but I don't know what made the difference. I wasn't happy when he won the opening set; I knew it would be tough to come back from a set down against him.
I wasn't serving well, and I had to change that; I started to play better and better in sets two and three. I was aggressive, and despite not a great serving display, it was enough for the triumph. I'm delighted to come back from a set down.
I was chasing the lines too much initially, letting him take control and doing all the running. I needed some time to feel the way around, and he took advantage of that early break. This is my revenge for the Davis Cup and a big moment for my career," Roger Federer said.