Roger Federer was one of the players to beat at the 2004 Australian Open, traveling to Melbourne without a coach but seeking a remarkable result. The Swiss defeated Alex Bogomolov Jr., Jeff Morrison and Todd Reid in the first three rounds, defeating three opponents outside the top-100 to enter the knockout stages.
He faced Lleyton Hewitt for the tenth time in the fourth round, hoping to score the third win over the Australian. In the 2003 Davis Cup semi-final, Lleyton was coming from two sets to love Roger in the same stadium, looking to repeat that performance and stay in the title field.
Instead, Federer scored a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 victory in two hours and 18 minutes, achieving the best result and advancing to the first quarter-final. Roger erased six of the seven breakthrough opportunities to keep pressure on the other side of the net and had the lead from set number two to advance to the quarterfinals.
Fighting for the semi-final, Federer faced another player of his generation who toppled him in a thriller in Melbourne a year ago, David Nalbandian. Suffering two Major losses against the Argentine in 2003, Roger was eager to avoid another, scoring a 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 victory in two hours and 41 minutes for the second semi-final at Majors.
Federer won just six points more than David, shooting 20 aces and defending eight of the 11 break opportunities. Nalbandian did his best to keep in touch, suffering five breaks of Federer's 12 chances, enough to propel the Swiss to the top.
At 5-5 in the first game, Federer saved a break point with a booming serve, gaining momentum and stealing David's serve in the next to claim it 7-5. The Argentine led 4-3 with a break in set number two, only to lose three straight games and hand it over to Federer, straying further from the finish line.
Losing ground in the final stages of the first two sets, Nalbandian fixed that in the third, stealing Roger's serve at 5-5 and securing it with a big 7-5 winner, looking much better on the court now. Starting over, Roger raced to a 3-0 lead in set number four and sealed the deal with a service winner at 5-3 for the first semi-final in Melbourne.
Roger Federer has a wide array of achievements to his name
The 39-year-old's last appearance on clay was at Roland Garros 2019, where he lost in the semifinals to Rafael Nadal. Speaking about that experience in his press conference on Monday, Roger Federer claimed he played a "good" tournament but that the semifinal was "dead" because of bad weather conditions.
"It was a good tournament. I played well," Federer said. "This match against Rafa was of course completely dead with the wind. I saw everything against him, but it was finally quite funny in these conditions. There are some exchanges that you normally cannot play at all."