In Roger Federer's words: 'It's nice to hear admiring words from John McEnroe'

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In Roger Federer's words: 'It's nice to hear admiring words from John McEnroe'

Roger Federer had high hopes at the Australian Open 2004, seeking the first significant result in Melbourne and world no. 1 spot. Flying down under with no coach, the Swiss defeated Alex Bogomolov Jr., Jeff Morrison and Todd Reid in the opening three rounds, toppling three rivals from outside the top-100 to march into the last 16.

There, he faced Lleyton Hewitt for the tenth time, hoping to beat the Aussie for the third time. Lleyton had an early lead in the rivalry against Roger, scoring seven wins from nine clashes and hoping for more of the same in front of the home crowd on Rod Laver Arena.

In the 2003 Davis Cup semi-final, Lleyton came from two sets to love down against Roger on the same stadium to deliver a fantastic victory, looking to repeat that performance and remain on the title course. Instead of that, Federer scored a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 in two hours and 18 minutes for the best Australian Open result.

Roger erased six out of seven break chances to keep the pressure on the other side of the net, having the upper hand from set number two to advance into the quarter-final. Hewitt made a solid start but nothing more than that, getting broken five times from 13 opportunities offered to Roger for another failure in front of the home crowd.

Federer had around 50 winners against 15 from Hewitt, spraying more errors but controlling the pace from the second set to arrange the quarter-final meeting with David Nalbandian. Roger dominated the shortest and mid-range rallies, following Lleyton's numbers in the most advanced exchanges to outplay the rival in style.

Federer made a couple of errors to lose four straight points in the first game and suffer a break. Lleyton saved two break points in the next game to stay ahead, barely dropping a point on serve after that to take the opener 6-4.

Roger Federer reached the first Australian Open quarter-final in 2004.

Roger stayed focused at the beginning of the second set, clinching four consecutive points in game six for his first break and a 4-2 advantage. He survived a break chance a few minutes later to cement the lead, fighting off a couple more at 5-3 to grab the set and level the overall score.

Federer was the only player in the third set, producing high numbers on both serve and return to deliver a bagel and move closer to the finish line. In the fourth set, the Swiss earned a crucial break at 2-2, fending off a break chance in the closing stages at 5-4 to move over the top with a smash winner.

After the match, John McEnroe praised Roger's talent and abilities, calling him one of the most talented player he had ever seen. "David Nalbandian will be a different opponent, already from the serve. Nalbandian seeks angels and backhands down the line and I will try to avenge the last year's defeat. It was nice to hear those words from John McEnroe," Roger Federer said.