After a reliable closure of the 2002 season, Roger Federer took some 20 days off ahead of the new one, skipping the Hopman Cup and kicking off the campaign in Doha. The Swiss was far from the pace that made him the Masters 1000 champion and the top-10 player last year, struggling in the opening matches in Doha and losing to world no.
42 Jan-Michael Gambill 6-4, 7-5 in the quarters. The American saved five out of six break chances and scored three breaks that carried him over the finish line and into the last four. Traveling to Sydney, Roger was eager to defend the title claimed 12 months ago, but that didn't happen, as he suffered an unexpected 6-2, 6-3 loss to Franco Squillari in 54 minutes, not looking good on the court and heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open with many concerns.
Roger couldn't find the rhythm on both serve and return against the Argentine, earning only one break chance and losing serve four times as he didn't move or serve as he would have wanted. Speaking about his injuries after the match, Roger mentioned both knees, hip and the right groin, unable to play injury-free ahead of the Australian Open and hoping for a better fortune at the season's first Major.
Roger Federer made a shaky start of the 2003 season due to injuries.
"The problems came against Gambill in Doha; that's when I felt it for the first time. My knee was hurting, but it went away, followed by my other knee and hip.
It wasn't anything serious, though. At the beginning of the previous season, I was also struggling with injuries at the Hopman Cup, taking me almost a week to recover. I couldn't play at 100% in Perth, and it's a bit similar now; I think my body has to get used to playing matches again after a break.
I hope everything will be fine. I have to check with my physio; we will get together and decide how much I can practice. We will probably stay here in Sydney for another day or two and see how things go with my legs. If you see me around, I will be fine.
It wasn't easy to play against Squillari in windy conditions. Everything was much different than in Doha last week; I couldn't adjust. I was struggling with my footwork, and you can't expect a better result if you can't move well," Roger Federer said.