Following back-to-back quarter-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon before turning 20 in 2001, Roger Federer became a Major contender for the years to come. Following those two notable results, Federer slowed down slightly on the most significant scene and waited for two years to show his A-game again. The Swiss conquered the first Major title at Wimbledon 2003, lifting the trophy at his beloved event when he celebrated as a junior five years earlier. After an early US Open exit, Roger claimed the Masters Cup and finished the year ranked second behind Andy Roddick, hoping for an even stronger 2004. Traveling to Australia after parting ways with Peter Lundgren, Federer was the player to watch in Melbourne, using a favorable draw to reach the fourth round in style. Things became more serious, but Roger was ready for all the challenges, beating Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian for the first Australian Open semi-final.
With those points, Roger moved a victory away from becoming world no. 1, facing Juan Carlos Ferrero in the battle for the final. Putting everything aside, Federer delivered a reliable performance to topple the Spaniard 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and a half, advancing into the second Major final and joining the exclusive list of world no. 1 players. It was their seventh meeting and the fourth triumph for Federer, who never lost serve and mounted the pressure on the other side of the net. Ferrero gave serve away four times, doing his best in sets one and three but still ending his run in the semis. Both players had more winners than unforced errors, and Federer controlled the pace with 30 winners and 40 mistakes forced from the Spaniard. Juan Carlos was the better player in the lengthy exchanges, which wasn’t enough to keep him safe. Federer was miles in front in the shortest range up to four strokes, earning his triumph in that segment.
Roger Federer reached the first Australian Open final in 2004.
Servers marched through the opening six service games, and it was Roger who experienced first troubles at 3-3. The Swiss saved four break points in his only troubled service game to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard, delivering a break at love in game ten to take the opener 6-4. Roger clinched another break in the second set’s second game following another loose forehand from the Spaniard. Struggling more and more, Ferrero gave serve away in the sixth game, allowing Federer to close the set with a service winner and move closer to the finish line. At 3-3 in the third set, Roger moved in front with the last break he needed, serving well and emerging at the top with a service winner in the tenth game to become world no. 1 for the first time and set the title clash against Marat Safin. Asked about a possible career Grand Slam, Federer said he is way too far from that, still having to win the final in Melbourne and improve his Paris and New York results.
“Impossible to answer; I have no idea. I’ve never been close to winning the French Open or the US Open. But now that I’ve played well at the Australian Open, I know I’ve definitely got a better chance in New York. French Open gives me confidence, knowing that I played finals in Rome and won Hamburg and Munich. If that is enough to win a Major… I don’t think so, but I’ll go step by step. I haven’t even won this tournament yet. Still got some work to do in the final,” Roger Federer said.