Roger Federer made a strong start to his 2003 clay court tour, winning the title in Munich in commanding style to take home the seventh ATP crown. With no time for celebration, the 21-year-old went south and entered the draw for the Masters 1000 event in Rome, without doing well there in the past.
All that changed that year, when Roger beat Paul-Henri Mathieu, Mariano Zabaleta, Tommy Robredo, Filippo Volandri and Juan Carlos Ferrero, losing a set en route to his third Masters 1000 final and his second on clay after Hamburg 2002.
. Hoping to win back-to-back titles on the slowest surface, Federer faced Felix Mantilla and suffered a 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 loss in two hours and 41 minutes, losing for the first time since Miami and shifting his focus. in defending the title in Hamburg.
Mantilla defended himself from 14 of 17 break point chances, kept cool when it mattered most, and closed the deal in straight sets for his 10th and final ATP title, also his first at the Masters 1000 level. The Spaniard won just seven points more than the Swiss, forging the advantage in the shorter and mid-range exchanges, while Federer had the advantage in the more advanced rallies, not enough to take at least one set.
Roger blew his chances in the first set and lost at the worst at 5-6. He then opened up a 2-0 lead in set number two, only to lose the next eight games and find himself 7-5, 6-2, 2-0 down, propelling Mantilla closer to the finish line.
Suddenly, Federer took four straight games to open a 4-2 lead, serving for the set at 5-4 and blowing two points to bring Felix back to 5-5. The Spaniard fended off no fewer than seven breakthrough chances in the 11th game to set up a tiebreaker in which Federer saved two match points, missing a cut backhand at set point and landing a long forehand at 8-9.
to push the opponent forward. In a long interview, former ATP player Yves Allegro spoke about Roger Federer.
Allegro reflects on Roger Federer's return
“I don't expect Roger Federer to be at his best. He's never been in this situation and has been away from tennis for so long.
Thanks to his game intelligence, Roger can beat many opponents, even if he is not 100%," said Yves Allegro, who also insists that a few losses will not shake his life and his goals. Other champions have experienced this in the past: “When Sampras lost to Bastl in the second round at Wimbledon in 2002, everyone thought it was over.
And three months later, Sampras won the US Open. As long as a great player like Roger plays and believes in it, he can win tournaments."