Reaching back-to-back Major quarter-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2001, Roger Federer couldn’t keep the same level on the most significant scene in the next two years, falling in the early rounds and suffering a big blow at Wimbledon 2002 when Mario Ancic defeated him in straight sets in the first round.
Ready to bounce back, Federer won the title in Halle in June 2003 for the best preparation ahead of Wimbledon where he played on a high level, racing past the first three rivals and doing the same against Feliciano Lopez despite a nasty back injury during the training.
Returning to the quarter-finals at the All England Club, Federer toppled Sjeng Schalken in three sets to book the semi-final meeting against Andy Roddick, with both trying to advance into the first Major final. Determined to show his best tennis, Federer forged a 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory in an hour and 43 minutes, leaving Roddick far behind and staying on the title course in the cathedral of tennis.
Repelling two break chances at the beginning of the second set, Federer gave away only 17 points in 15 service games, mounting the pressure on the other side of the court and moving over the top with three breaks of serve on his tally.
Andy was there to fight in the opener, saving one break point and creating a set point at 6-5 in the tie break, only to spray a massive forehand error and ruin his chances for a more favorable result. With 74 winners and 35 errors, Federer was the ruler of the court, dominating in sets two and three to find himself in the first Major final at 21.
“My good serving made the difference, allowing me to play risky shots in his games. I had a chance to break him in the first set, going for shots and staying focused on the return games. My initial shot worked well and in those moments, I feel I can return any serve and keep the pressure on my opponents.
That was the crucial element in my win. I don’t try to copy anyone; I think that’s wrong. In the hitting zone, it is pretty much the same for all of us. The technique is the one that makes you look good or bad on the court. My favorite players were Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg and then Pete Sampras; I loved to watch them.”