Roger Federer made a breakthrough run at Wimbledon 2001, beating the seven-time champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round before falling in the quarters to Tim Henman in four tight sets. Twelve months later, the Swiss returned at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club as the top-10 player and one of the title favorites, hoping to go further than a year ago and fight for the trophy.
Nonetheless, the 2002 Wimbledon campaign turned out to be a rather quick and unsuccessful one for Federer, losing to an 18-year-old Mario Ancic 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 on June 25. In his first Major match (he was the runner-up at the junior event in 2000), the Croat ranked 154th qualified for the main draw as one of the youngest players in the field, entering only the second ATP event after Miami in March.
The defending champion Goran Ivanisevic was not in the draw, and another hard-hitting player from Split was there to replace him in style, firing one booming serve after another to keep Federer without any rhythm, with his return working better than Roger's to earn the triumph.
Ancic needed an hour and 40 minutes to take down the most prominent youngster at that moment, repelling five out of six break chances and stealing Roger's serve on three occasions to notch straight-sets triumph, his first on the ATP level!
In 2002, Roger Federer suffered a heavy loss to Mario Ancic at Wimbledon R1.
Ancic was the youngest player to make a winning Wimbledon Centre Court debut since Bjorn Borg in distant 1973, drawing only positive vibes from the big scene and delivering a barrage of aggressive and attacking strokes to leave Roger behind!
The Croat kicked off the encounter in the best way, breaking Federer twice in the opening set to take it 6-3 in just 29 minutes. There were no breaks in set number two, and Mario won the tie break 7-2, playing better when it mattered the most and sealing Federer's fate with a break in the third set's fourth game.
"I'm still looking for reasons why I played so bad; I'm down right now, and it's quite normal after such a loss. I expected much more than coming here and losing in straight sets; I'm disappointed, and I haven't got any words at the moment.
I knew Mario was young but not much more; I tried to get some information from other players as many of them hit with him, unlike me. Besides that information, I couldn't figure out his game today. I let him play well today, and I'm down about my performance; it was quite bad.
I mean, I had my chances in the second set and missed them all. I had the break in the first but couldn't take my chances today. I was 40-0 up on the return once in the second set, and that was my only big chance which I didn't seize.
Usually, I prefer to be in a favored role. I still think Arazi was a tough opponent at the French Open. Here, I should have won this match. I was a big favorite over Ancic, but he played well today. It is very disappointing to lose back-to-back first round at Majors. I'm looking for reasons why but I have time to figure that out, so we'll see," Roger Federer said.