Roger Federer failed to reach the Masters Cup in 2001 despite a couple of reliable results at Majors, improving his game in 2002 to find himself among the elite eight players at the end of the season. Embracing the post-US Open swing, Roger had played in Moscow, Vienna, Madrid, Basel and Paris before traveling to China, hoping for a strong run and passing the round-robin stage.
Roger did that in style, beating Juan Carlos Ferrero, Jiri Novak and Thomas Johansson after losing only one set, setting the semi-final clash versus world no. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. The Aussie defeated the Swiss in the Paris Masters quarter-final, prevailing again in Shanghai in one of the season's best matches.
After three hours of a grueling and thrilling battle, Hewitt toppled Federer 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 after three hours! Lleyton improved his score over Roger to 6-2 after fending off 16 out of 21 break chances and stealing the Swiss' serve six times from 13 opportunities!
Roger had more winners and made almost 50 unforced errors, unable to convert more break chances and overpower the rival when it mattered the most. Lleyton created a small gap in the quickest rallies, a notable fact for him against the better server, while nothing could separate them in the mid-range and more extended exchanges, with more than 60 points that passed the six-shot mark.
Roger broke Lleyton at love in game two and placed a forehand down the line winner in the next one to forge a 3-0 advantage. Serving for the set at 5-3, Roger netted a forehand on the set point and hit a double fault to bring Lleyton back into contention, as the Aussie pulled the break back for 4-5.
Hewitt saved another set point on his serve in game ten with a volley winner and three more to bring the game home and gain colossal momentum. Roger lost the ground completely after squandering his chances, spraying a forehand error to lose serve for the second time in a row in game 11 before creating two break chances at 5-6 that could have sent the set into a tie break.
In 2002, Roger Federer lost an epic semi-final to Lleyton Hewitt in Shanghai.
Hewitt had to work hard to wrap up the set 7-5 after an hour and no less than nine break points faced in games ten and 12! Things went from bad to worse for the Basel native, losing serve at 15 in the second set's opening game and falling 2-0 down after Lleyton's service winner.
Facing an elimination, Federer saved a break chance in the third game and broke back at 2-3 when the Aussie hit a double fault. The Swiss lost serve again to fall 4-3 down and find himself close to the exit door. Roger saved a match point at 4-5 with a forehand attack and broke back after another forehand down the line that Lleyton couldn't control, leveling the score at 5-5 and looking determined to force the third set.
Unlike in the opener, Federer had the upper hand in the crucial moments, seizing another break in game 12 to grab the set, rattling off the last four games and saving that match point to prolong the encounter and extend his chances.
Roger had a massive opportunity to move in front when he earned two break chances at 4-3, wasting them both and allowing Lleyton to close the game with a service winner. After missing his opportunities, Federer suffered a break at 4-4, with Hewitt serving for the victory.
The Aussie cracked under pressure, sending a forehand long and handing a break to Roger, who leveled the score at 5-5. That wasn't enough to push the Swiss towards the finish line, though, double-faulting in game 11 to send Lleyton ahead and spraying a forehand mistake at 5-6 to send the rival over the finish line.