In 2002, Roger Federer established himself as one of the world's best players, winning three titles and cracking the top-10 following the first Masters 1000 crown in Hamburg. The Majors results were not there, but the young Swiss did enough to secure the place at the first Masters Cup in Shanghai, where he lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-final.
After competing in 80 matches that year, Roger ran out of steam a bit, struggling with injuries in the new season's opening weeks and raising questions about the Australian Open participation. In Doha, Roger didn't play at his best in the first two rounds, losing in the quarters to Jan-Michael Gambill and making a trip to Sydney, where he won the title a year ago.
The Swiss couldn't repeat that result after suffering a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Franco Squillari in the first round in swift 54 minutes, creating only one break chance and getting broken four times to propel the rival through.
After the match, Roger admitted he wasn't at 100% physically, dealing with leg injuries in those season's early days but still hoping to compete at the upcoming Australian Open.
Roger Federer struggled with injuries at the beginning of 2003.
"Some losses hurt more than the others, that's for sure.
If you suffer a tight three-setter or five-setter defeat, it hurts more than losing in straight sets like today. Still, I don't think it changes much if it's a pre-Major event. You use those small tournaments as preparation, but a loss is a loss, and I feel disappointed; I should have done a better job being the defending champion.
I'm not so good physically; my legs are hurting already since Doha, and I struggled on my serve today. The right groin bothers me a bit; I couldn't serve at 100%. I haven't been practicing so much between my Doha loss and here.
I thought the pain went away, but it came back during the match. I have to make sure I get the treatment now, hoping it will not bother me at the Australian Open. I would have pulled out if it was more serious; I can still walk, and as long as I can play a bit, I'll go on the court.
I'm not considering pulling out from the Australian Open. I don't see Squillari often; he usually plays on clay and me on an indoor court. He stands very far back and moves very well. His passing shots worked well today, and he came up with some good shots, making it tough for me," Roger Federer said.