Roger Federer was the player to beat in early Mary 2003, gathering many victories in the opening three months and a boost ahead of clay. The Swiss won the Munich title in style and stood strong in Rome as well. Roger didn't have good results in the Italian capital in the previous years, changing that and advancing into the semi-final following victories over Paul-Henri Mathieu, Mariano Zabaleta, Tommy Robredo and Filippo Volandri.
Roger had won 17 straight sets on clay before the second one against the Italian. Volandri won it 7-5 following a late break, sending the clash into a decider before Federer raised his level again to seal the deal and earn the 11th straight win.
Roger had some difficulties with the partisan Italian crowd at Foro Italico, with some fans crossing the line and telling all kinds of things to him during the match. Still, the youngster endured all that to stay focused and seal the deal with reliable performance in the decider that kept him on the title course.
In the battle for the crown, Roger would face Juan Carlos Ferrer, seeking the second Masters 1000 title after Hamburg 2002, also on clay.
Roger Federer reached the final in Rome 2003 despite some problems with the crowd.
"When you play against the Italian here, the crowd can be mean to you.
Sometimes I felt they treated me unfairly, but I tried not to show anything. I heard some bad words towards me, stuff like that; it was a little bit overboard, especially when you do that 20 times. I'm not a guy who shows a lot of emotions, and they used that.
I wouldn't say I liked that, but I hope the crowd will stand behind me in the next match. To make things clear, I have nothing against that; I understand they supported an Italian guy, and that's what they should do. It's just that a couple of them didn't act as they should.
I'm looking forward to facing Juan Carlos Ferrero; that should be a tough battle. We both have been playing good, and we have confidence; he is more experienced on clay, but I will have my chances If I mix my game nicely and come to the net more than in the previous rounds," Roger Federer said.