After reaching back-to-back Major quarter-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Roger Federer had to slow down in the second part of 2001 due to a groin injury, looking eager for a strong return in 2002. The Swiss kicked off the next season with the Sydney title, failing to defend the Milan crown and losing ground a bit in Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells. Everything looked much better for the young gun in Miami, reaching the quarter-final there a year ago and making another step during his next visit to Florida to secure the first Masters 1000 final. In the semis, Federer faced world no. 1 and another super talented youngster Lleyton Hewitt, beating the Aussie 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 29 minutes for the second victory in six encounters. Roger stormed over Andrei Pavel in the previous round and was ready to produce more of the same against the better-ranked rival, dropping 15 points in ten service games and repelling all three break chances to force the opponent to give his best behind the initial shot to stay in touch.
That wasn’t the case for Lleyton that night, as he played against nine break opportunities and got broken once in each set to propel Federer over the finish line and towards the title clash against Andre Agassi. The Swiss had the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, hitting more winners than Hewitt to forge the difference and earn the victory.
In 2002, Roger Federer beat world no. 1 Lleyton Hewitt to reach the final.
Roger kicked off the action with an ace in the opening game and produced a break in the next one after Hewitt’s backhand mistake to settle into an early lead. Federer survived two break chances in the third game to confirm the break and held at love with a service winner the next time he served to open a 4-1 advantage. Dominating with his initial shot, Roger closed the opener with a service winner in game nine, moving 6-3 in front after 37 minutes and taking a big step en route to the final.
Ready to fight even stronger, Hewitt held at 15 in the second set’s first game and created a break chance a few minutes later, denied by a smash winner from Roger, who brought the game home with a forehand crosscourt winner to avoid an early setback. Stealing momentum, Federer grabbed a break in the third game after forcing Hewitt’s error and landed four winners in the next one to move 6-3, 3-1 in front, controlling the match’s strings entirely. Flying over the court, Roger fired four winners in the sixth game to maintain the lead, squandered three break chances in the one that followed and created more opportunities at 5-3. Giving his best, Lleyton saved two match points to prolong the encounter for another game before Roger sealed the deal on his serve to sail into the title match, his first at the Masters 1000 level at 20.