Roger Federer was among the world’s most promising players in the early 2000s. His first out of 103 ATP titles came on February 4, 2001, on an indoor court in Milan. The Swiss reached his first ATP finals in Marseille and Basel in 2000, ending the season in the top-30 and setting his eyes on bigger goals in 2001.
Federer started working with Pierre Paganini, the best fitness coach around. Roger built a great team around him after adding Peter Lundgren, and the results were about to come soon! Paganini paired Federer’s outstanding talent with strength and stamina on the court, making him mentally even stronger.
After all the hard work in December 2000, Federer was ready to fight against the world’s leading players next season, starting with the Hopman Cup crown alongside Martina Hingis. After that, Roger reached the Sydney quarter-final and the Australian Open third round, with February proving to be the month that he waited so long!
Roger came to Milan for the season’s first indoor tournament, ready to make damage on a super-fast indoor carpet. Ranked 27th, the 19-year-old Swiss took down Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 6-4 to kick off the campaign, dropping ten points on serve and breaking the German five times.
Cyril Saulnier was his next rival, and a teenager found himself in trouble after the opening set. Roger raised the level after that and scored a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory that propelled him into the quarter-final.
Roger Federer won his first ATP title in Milan on February 4, 2001.
Both players scored four breaks, and Federer delivered his return games in the crucial moments of the final two sets to advance into his 14th ATP quarter-final.
Goran Ivanisevic stood next on Roger’s path, and the Swiss beat the Croat 6-4, 6-4 in swift 57 minutes. Federer kept his second serve safe and broke once in each set to book a place in the last four. World no. 7 Yevgeny Kafelnikov stood between Roger and the title match.
The youngster toppled the more experienced rival 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 in an hour and 50 minutes, earning his fifth top-10 victory and advancing into the third ATP final. It was Roger’s excellent display, serving well and keeping the points on his racquet.
The Swiss fended off five out of seven break chances and stole the opponent’s serve five times from nine opportunities. Julien Boutter was the last obstacle in Federer’s quest for the maiden ATP crown. The Swiss ousted the Frenchman 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 20 minutes to lift his first ATP trophy!
As the result suggests, it was a close match. However, Federer controlled most of it, playing better behind the second serve and facing seven break chances in comparison to 14 on the other side. The Frenchman played his first ATP final and did well to break Roger’s serve five times.
Still, he lost the edge after suffering seven breaks, giving away 43% of the points behind his initial shot. Federer broke in the encounter’s third game with a forehand winner but lost serve in the next one after wasting game points that could have pushed him 3-1 up.
Julien repelled two break chances in the fifth game and scored another break a few minutes later to open a 4-2 lead when Roger netted a routine forehand. Federer kept his coolness and rattled off the next four games to take the opener 6-4 and gain a boost.
He overcame Julien’s game points at 2-4, secured another break at 4-4 and sealed the set with a volley winner in game ten. Players exchanged breaks in the second set’s third and fourth games, and Julien ensured another at 4-3 with a return winner to serve for the set.
Federer did well to prolong the action, breaking back and saving two set points in the tenth game to set up a tie break. The young gun earned a match point at 6-5 after a forehand winner. Boutter fended it off with a volley winner and stole the breaker 9-7 thanks to two winners to gather momentum ahead of the decider.
It was interesting to see how Roger would react in the third set following a colossal chance he wasted. That brings us to the story’s beginning, where we talked about the preparations the Swiss endured to prepare for this kind of effort.
Federer broke in the decider’s first game when Boutter sprayed a forehand error. He kept the advantage until the end and sealed the deal with a good attack at 5-4 to celebrate his first out of many ATP titles.
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