Despite some ups and downs, Roger Federer was among the world’s leading players in the first half of 2003, winning titles in Marseille, Dubai and Munich and reaching the Rome final. The Swiss suffered an early Roland Garros loss like a year ago, bouncing back on grass and claiming his first ATP title on the fastest surface in Halle. Heading to Wimbledon as one of the favorites, Federer dropped one set in seven encounters to lift the first Major crown at 21, improving his chances of becoming world no. 1 soon. Winning 120 points in Gstaad right after Wimbledon (Jiri Novak toppled him in five sets in the final), Federer was a win away from becoming world no. 1 in Montreal, halted by Andy Roddick in the semis and seeking another chance in Cincinnati a week later.
It wasn’t to be for the Swiss in Ohio as well, fending off seven match points versus a qualifier Scott Draper in the first round before suffering a 7-6, 7-6 loss to David Nalbandian in two hours and six minutes. Both players scored three breaks, and David claimed only two points more than Federer, staying focused in the decisive moments to extend the winning streak against the Swiss who was yet to beat the Argentine on the main level.
Roger Federer lost to David Nalbandian in two tie breaks in Cincinnati 2003.
“Yeah, looking at results, David is a tough matchup for me. I’m still to beat him in the seniors, scoring one triumph in juniors. I wasn’t tired; I felt good until the end. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to come back from 5-2 down. The heat wasn’t the problem too. I lost because I didn’t play well, that’s simple. I’m not happy about my game in the last two matches. I scored a win yesterday somehow, but not today. We both arrived late to Cincinnati, which wasn’t an issue; his style is just tough for me. I didn’t think about claiming no. 1 spot this week, keeping my focus on matches.
I always had tight encounters against Nalbandian, losing them all so far. He has a looping backhand and a flat forehand. His second serve return is excellent, and it’s weird for me to challenge him; for ten or 15 minutes, he can’t miss a ball, and then, out of sudden, he brings you back into the match after numerous errors. Still, the most important thing is that I’m not far from beating him. I’m not going to push anything in that quest to become world no. 1; I want to win as many matches and tournaments, and then it would come. I will stay here for a couple of days and then move to New York,” Roger Federer said.