For the first time since 1973 and the famous boycott, there were no former champions in the quarter-final at Wimbledon 2003, with a chance for the remaining eight players to go all the way and earn glory. In 2001, Roger Federer was the quarter-finalist following that stunning win over Pete Sampras.
The Swiss returned to the All England Club two years later as one of the favorites and dropped one set in seven encounters to become a Major champion at 21. In the semis, Federer took down Andy Roddick 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 in under two hours, dominating in sets two and three to find himself in the first Major final, with Mark Philippoussis standing between him and the trophy.
World no. 48 gave his best against the Swiss, but it wasn't enough at least for a set, as Federer beat him 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 in an hour and 56 minutes for the most significant moment of his young career. Holding his nerves, Federer never faced a break chance, standing strong in both tie breaks and firing 73 winners and only nine unforced errors to leave Mark behind and secure his place in the record books.
The Aussie gave his best to stay in touch, blasting 50 service winners and fending off three out of five break chances. Roger grabbed two breaks in set number two and controlled the pace in others to lift the trophy. Federer had the upper hand in the more extended exchanges, winning 19 out of 27 points in that segment and taking ten points more in the quickest range up to four strokes, 89-79.
The Swiss made a promising start, dropping six points in the opener's six service games and waiting for a return chance patiently. Mark was there to follow that pace, taking four straight points from 30-0 down in the 12th game to set the tie break that Federer won 7-5 following his rival's double fault in the tenth point.
Roger Federer claimed the first Major crown at Wimbledon 2003.
Philippoussis had no winners from the court in set number two, struggling on the second serve and getting broken at 15 in games one and three to propel Roger in front.
The Swiss controlled the pace in his games, giving away six points and sealing the set with a service winner at 5-2 to forge a massive advantage ahead of the third set. Mark fended off three break chances to survive until the tie break, where all the pressure was on his back.
The Aussie couldn't endure it, spraying four unforced errors in the first seven points to push Federer 6-1 in front and allowing the Swiss to seal the deal after a service winner in the tenth point. Roger became the youngest Wimbledon champion since 1989 and the fourth player in the Open era with Wimbledon crowns in both juniors and seniors.
"This is the best! It was the most important match of my life, with the semi-final standing there as well. I didn't lose a set in those two matches and kept my level up; it's an absolute dream. To lift the trophy is something you don't expect; it brings a lot of emotions when it happens.
I have cried a few times on big occasions. At the first moment, I don't think I will but couldn't keep it. This tournament means a lot to me, and I had a great experience in 1998 when I won the junior title and again in 2001 after beating Pete Sampras.
I want to thank everybody who has helped me through my career, but this is my victory after all, and I'm thrilled about it. I knew I had the game for the big titles; I already had smaller titles and many wins and will enjoy the Wimbledon crown now.
Peter Carter is there as one of the most influential persons in my career. We would have had a big party together if he was still here. That went through my mind when I sat down on my chair, before the flashback and the golden trophy.
When you look at it and hold it, it's something you have always dreamed about, asking yourself is it for real. I have proved to everybody that I can chase notable titles. There was pressure from all sides, and it's a relief to me.
I always wanted to do better at Majors, but you need a little luck like the fourth-round clash when I struggled with a back injury. At that moment, I never thought about winning the title. Less than a week later, the crown is in my hands, and it's still tough for me to believe.
I was very nervous when I walked on the court, with strong emotions that you have to control. I'm exhausted now, with all the tension out there. After winning the second set, I was hoping to finish the job in straight sets," Roger Federer said.