Roger Federer won seven ATP titles in 2003, including Wimbledon and the ATP Masters Cup. Unlike the previous season, Federer couldn't lift a trophy at the Masters 1000 level, finishing the season ranked 2nd behind Andy Roddick and preparing an assault on the no.
1 spot in 2004. Heading to Melbourne with no coach, Federer sprinted past the opening three rounds, beating the rivals from outside the top-100 to set more challenging clashes against Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian. Having a negative score against them both, Federer ousted them in four sets, finding himself in the Major semi-final for the second time after Wimbledon last July.
Another youngster Juan Carlos Ferrero stood between Roger and the ATP throne, and unlike in Montreal 2003, the Swiss made no errors this time. Federer produced a reliable performance to beat the Spaniard 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and a half, advancing into the second Major final and becoming the 23rd world no.
1 since 1973. It was their seventh meeting and the fourth triumph Federer who repelled all four break chances and kept the pressure on the other side of the net. Struggling with an injury in the second part of the encounter, Ferrero couldn't stay on Roger's level, suffering four breaks to propel Federer into the title match against Marat Safin.
They both had more winners than unforced errors and it was Federer who had the upper hand with 30 winners and 40 mistakes that he forced from the Spaniard. Juan Carlos was the better player in the lengthy exchanges but that wasn't enough to keep him safe.
Roger forged the triumph in the quickest rallies up to four strokes, delivering better numbers with his serve and the initial groundstroke. Returners had no chances in the opening six games before Federer experienced those four break chances at 3-3.
Keeping his composure, the Swiss saved them all, bringing the game home for a massive boost and never facing troubles on serve again.
Roger Federer became world no. 1 after reaching the final in Melbourne 2004.
Juan Carlos lost four points on serve in the first four games, having to repeat that at 4-5 while serving to stay in the set.
The pressure became too tough to handle, as he gave serve at love after a forehand error to hand the set to Roger. Carried by this momentum, Federer earned a break in the second game of the second set following yet another weak forehand from the Spaniard.
A forehand down the line winner secured another break for the Swiss at 4-1, closing the set with a service winner and moving closer to the finish line. At 3-3 in the third set, Federer secured the crucial break, serving well and emerging at the top with a service winner in the tenth game to become world no.
1 for the first time. "I hope we will not see many changes at the top this year. I'm just getting used to the situation, and I can't predict how things will work; we'll see how I handle it. It's definitely going to be an exciting year.
There's a lot of young guys around, Andre is still there. I'm looking forward to what's going to happen," Roger Federer said.