Roger Federer claimed notable titles at Wimbledon and the ATP Masters Cup in 2003, finishing the season ranked 2nd behind the US Open champion Andy Roddick. Working with Peter Lundgren since 2000, Roger decided to change the approach and start the following season without a coach.
With no help from his box, Federer was among the players to beat at the Australian Open, seeking both the title and world no. 1 spot for the first time. Roger passed the opening three obstacles without problems, beating the rivals ranked outside the top-100 to set the fourth-round clash with Lleyton Hewitt.
Scoring only two wins in the previous nine encounters against the Aussie, Federer made no mistakes this time to reach his first Australian Open quarter-final, facing another fierce rival there. David Nalbandian defeated the Swiss in five sets in Melbourne a year ago, also at the US Open in September, with Federer serving revenge following a 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 victory in two hours and 41 minutes, advancing to the second semi-final at Majors after Wimbledon.
Roger won six points more than David in a tight battle, firing 20 aces and erasing eight out of 11 break chances, challenging Nalbandian to repeat those numbers. The Argentine gave his best to stay in contention, suffering five breaks and losing focus in the pivotal moments to push the rival through.
Federer held his nerves in the closing stages of the opening set, overcoming a 4-3 deficit in the second to forge a massive advantage. David won the third before Roger bounced back in the fourth to move into the last four and a win away from the ATP throne.
Delivering a rock-solid performance, Federer toppled Juna Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and a half, advancing into the final and becoming the 23rd world no. 1 since 1973. It was their seventh meeting and the fourth triumph for the Swiss who saved all four break chances to mount the pressure on the other side of the net.
Struggling with an injury, Ferror failed to match those numbers, giving serve away four times to propel Roger over the top. They both had more winners than unforced errors but the points were on Federer's racquet most of the time, hitting 30 winners and forcing around 40 mistakes from the Spaniard to control the pace and race into the title match.
Juan Carlos had the advantage in the most extended rallies, with nothing to separate them in those between five to eight strokes. The area where Roger earned his victory was the one with the quickest exchanges up to four strokes, overpowering the opponent and starting a massive celebration.
Both players served well in the opening six games, with Federer facing those four break chances at 3-3. Staying calm, the Swiss erased most of those with winners, bringing the game home for a massive boost. Juan Carlos lost four points on serve in the first four games, serving with an extra pressure at 4-5 and suffering a break at love after a forehand error to hand the set to Roger.
Carried by this momentum, Federer grabbed a break in the second game of the second set following another loose forehand from the Spaniard. A forehand down the line winner secured another break for the Swiss in game six, closing the set with a service winner at 5-1 to move closer to the finish line.
At 3-3 in the third set, Federer placed a deep return that Juan Carlos failed to control, stepping in front and sealing the deal with a service winner in game ten. "Unlike Marat Safin, I'm not a beer guy. I drink other stuff," Roger Federer said.