Still at 19, Roger Federer reached back-to-back Major quarter-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2001. Former junior Wimbledon champion stunned the seven-time winner Pete Sampras in the fourth round in a five-setter thriller to advance into the last eight, where Tim Henman halted his progress.
Instead of seeking the first Major crown, Roger slowed down at the most notable tennis tournaments in the next couple of years, failing to deliver his A-game and pass the opening four obstacles. Federer experienced a shocking first-round loss at Wimbledon in 2002 to Mario Ancic and was eager to fix that a year later after the first grass-court title in Halle a few weeks earlier.
Roger made a strong start at Wimbledon and dropped one set in the opening four rounds to advance into the quarter-final. The Swiss overcame a back injury against Feliciano Lopez, survived the opening set and sailed through.
Facing an injured Sjeng Schalken in the quarter-final, Roger did not miss a chance to win that one and find himself in the first Major semi-final. Federer faced another young gun Andy Roddick in a battle for a place in the final, and he delivered a rock-solid 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory in an hour and 43 minutes.
Andy stayed on level terms with Roger in the opening set but failed to take the last step after missing a forehand on a set point at 6-5 in the tie break.
Roger Federer advanced into his first Major final at Wimbledon 2003.
Federer grabbed the final three points of the breaker to gain a massive boost, repelling two break chances at the beginning of the second set and never looking back.
The Swiss scored three breaks to control the scoreboard, hitting 74 winners and 35 errors to leave Roddick far behind. It was Roger’s first notable Wimbledon win after that famous one over Pete Sampras two years ago, and he was pleased with how he performed.
Federer was relieved after finally reaching his first Major final, remaining on the title course and silencing all the doubters. “For me, it’s always tricky to compare matches to the one I played against Pete Sampras.
I believe it will be hard to top that encounter because he was my favorite player. Facing him on the Centre Court at 19 and battling for five sets felt incredible. The emotions were so high, and I could not believe it. Now, I’m almost always playing on the main courts, and I’m more used to those big matches.
After that victory over Pete, I still would not think about Major finals in the next couple of years, even though people predicted that. I’m happy to achieve that and finally put those who did not trust my game in the corners,” Roger Federer said.