Roger Federer was a man on the mission at the Australian Open 2004, seeking the first significant result in Melbourne and the ATP throne. The Swiss defeated Alex Bogomolov Jr., Jeff Morrison and Todd Reid in the opening three rounds, dropping 20 games in nine sets against the rivals from outside the top-100 to enter the last 16.
A much harder obstacle stood between Roger and the place in the quarters, with Lleyton Hewitt awaiting on the other side of the net. The Aussie had an early lead in the rivalry with Federer, scoring seven wins from the opening nine clashes and hoping for more of the same in front of the home crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
In the 2003 Davis Cup semi-final, Lleyton came from two sets to love down against Roger in the same stadium to seal the deal for Australia, looking to repeat that performance and remain on the title course. Instead of that, Federer toppled the Aussie 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 in two hours and 18 minutes for his first Australian Open quarter-final.
Hitting 14 aces, Roger erased six out of seven break chances to keep his serve safe after an early setback that cost him the opener, having the upper hand from set number two to advance into the quarter-final. Hewitt made a solid start, but that was all we saw from him, getting broken five times from 13 opportunities offered to Roger in the last three sets for another failure in front of the home crowd.
Federer had around 50 winners (leaving Hewitt on modest 15), spraying more errors than his rival but doing enough to control the pace from the second set and arrange the quarter-final meeting with David Nalbandian.
Roger Federer took down Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open 2004.
Roger had the advantage in the shortest and mid-range rallies and followed Lleyton's numbers in the most advanced exchanges to outplay the rival in style.
From 40-15 in the first game, Federer made a couple of errors to lose four straight points and suffer a break. The Aussie fended off two break chances in the next one to confirm the lead, barely dropping a point on serve in the rest of the set to take it 6-4.
Roger stayed focused at the beginning of the second set to avoid the same scenario, clinching four consecutive points in game six for his first break and a 4-2 advantage. He saved a break point a few minutes later to cement the lead, fighting off a couple more at 5-3 to grab the set and level the overall score.
The third set turned out to be a disaster for the home favorite, experiencing three breaks and allowing Roger to deliver a bagel and gain a massive boost. In the fourth set, the Swiss earned a crucial break at 2-2, fending off a break chance while serving for the win at 5-4 and moving over the top with a smash winner to advance into the quarters.
After the match, Federer said he wants to go much further and fight for the title, pleased with his campaign so far. "I'm chasing no. 1 spot in this tournament, and I turned out to be a bad guy who put Lleyton out of the draw. My goal is to go further, and I start from zero ahead of the quarters," Roger Federer said.