Roger Federer arrived in Houston for the ATP Master Cup 2003 eager to raise his level in comparison to the last couple of tournaments. After winning the Vienna title, Roger didn't play well in Madrid despite reaching the semi-final, suffering early losses in Basel and Paris and wanting to fix that in the season's final event.
Federer faced the local favorite Andre Agassi in the first encounter, digging deep to oust the veteran 6-7, 6-3, 7-6. After the first set, Roger settled into a nice rhythm to find himself 5-3 up in the decider. Andre bounced back with a late break to extend the clash and reach the tie break, earning two match points.
Federer kept his coolness to repelled those, sealing the breaker 9-7 to notch the first triumph over the American. Playing against another rival he had never defeated before, Federer produced top-class tennis to topple David Nalbandian 6-3, 6-0.
The Swiss did everything right on the court, controlling the pace on both serve and return to oust the Argentine for the first time in six encounters. In the last round-robin clash, Roger took down world no. 2 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-1 to reach the semis in style, avenging the Madrid loss.
Federer saved all three break points and delivered four breaks of serve to have the upper hand. The Swiss had 23 winners and 12 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and mastering the Spaniard in the more advanced exchanges.
Roger was off to a strong start, securing a break at 15 in the second game and overcoming a slight scare in the third to forge a 3-0 lead.
In Houston 2003, Roger Federer said he is more experienced than youngsters.
They both served well by the end of the set, and Federer claimed it 6-3, preparing another attack in the second.
He grabbed a break in the third game after Juan Carlos' double fault, secured another at 3-1 and moved over the top on the third match point in the seventh game. Asked about the upcoming stars, Roger said he wasn't afraid of Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet, mentioning his experience in comparison to them.
At 17, Nadal and Gasquet were the youngest players at the end of the season, with the Spaniard making significant steps towards the top. "For a couple of years, the young players have been emerging and moving closer to the top.
Sampras has retired, and we all have to prove ourselves. Also, we are not that young; we are all 22 or 23. There are younger prospects than us, like Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet. I'm not afraid of them as I have more experience; I have been on the Tour for five or six years," Roger Federer said.