Remembering Roger Federer’s First Grand Slam Title: 2003 Wimbledon 🏆

Roger Federer vs Mark Philippoussis

Great Epicurean
Jul 8, 2018 · 12 min read
Roger Federer wins 7–6, 6–2, 7–6.

2003 Wimbledon, when Roger Federer’s life changed forever with his first of many Wimbledon titles.

He stunned Mark Philippoussis 7–6(5), 6–2, 7–6(3) hitting 21 aces and 23 unreturned serves to become the first Grand Slam champion from Switzerland, the first player since Stefan Edberg in 1990 to win Wimbledon as a junior and as a pro.

“There’s no rule about how you should conduct yourself in the moment when you win or you lose. I’m the kind of guy who lets the tears flow, and I think that goes down pretty well, especially when people see this is the realization of my biggest dream.”

“ It was my most important match in my life. I knew I had the game, you know. And, for me, it was somehow first important that I could prove it maybe on the smaller events.”

“This is also really where I picked up, you know. I won titles — now, you know, a lot. It’s already my fifth this year”. He thanked “everybody who has helped me throughout my career, you know, going from coaches to friends to condition trainers to stringers to masseurs, just everybody who has been involved in my game.”

And you don’t really know what to do in the first moment, you know? I just knew I’m gonna go down on the floor, you know, and enjoy it, and see what happens.”

“You don’t have golden trophies very often. Just the way, you know, when you look at it and when you hold it, is something you’ve always dreamed of. So right then, you feel like: Am I dreaming? This is true right now?”.



Play-by-Play: Philippoussis v Federer

First set: Federer* 1–0 Philippoussis

Without wishing to sound like McEnroe and Becker who do unmentionables in their pants everytime a player approaches the net, Federer has come in on every serve so far. Philippoussis hints at his improved returning ability by sending a couple of volleys soaring down the line.

First set: Federer 1–1 Philippoussis*

The Scud can serve alright. Three out of five serves aces or near unreturnables. His service games should be interesting.

First set: Federer* 2–1 Philippoussis

This is my first game by game of the tournament, I’d forgotten that you have to write as well as watch. Why is my first match on the final Sunday on the tournament? Because none of the boys wanted to give up their Sundays.

Federer gives Philippoussis a taste of his own. Big first serves, followed by a charge to the net. But the key will be if he can return the Philippoussis serve.

First set: Federer 2–2 Philippoussis*

Federer takes Philippoussis to deuce via some passing shots on the big man’s (6ft 4) serve. But Philippoussis stays calm and serves out the danger. By the way, please don’t complain if we spell his name wrong once or twice, as someone just did to Amalie. It’s the kind of name you use in speech correction techniques, or in a spelling bee in American High Schools or Judy Blume books. It’s tricky.

First set: Federer* 3–2 Philippoussis

Federer serves three aces to take the game to love. There’s little between them. One of Philippoussis’ nicknames in Australia is Mark Falltopieces because before this year, that was what he had a habit of doing in the major championships.

First set: Federer 3–3 Philippoussis*

A double fault does not precede a collapse and tension between the two remains high.

Another of Philippoussis’ nicknames of course was The Scud Muffin, because of his way with the ladies, including, if you believe Pat Cash and the News of the World, the most marketably delectable Anna Kournikova.

First set: Federer* 4–3 Philippoussis

There hasn’t been a rally of more than four shots whilst I’ve been watching. Which, if you work it out, is since the match began.

First set: Federer 4–4 Philippoussis*

Federer applies the pressure to the Scud Muffin’s service game and gets to 30–30. But as is Philippoussis’ way, he serves himself out of danger into the far corner of the deuce court. Whilst Federer is struggling to get back into the court, he plants his body at the net and puts Federer’s safety shot neatly away. And the last shot of the game? An ace.

First set: Federer* 5–4 Philippoussis

It’s better than yesterday’s final, no disrespect to the Williamses.What we learnt in this game is that Federer can serve at 130mph too. And barely break a sweat. Although that could be that his Nike adorned sweatband is soaking up the pressure for him. He is Swiss as well, therefore he must be benign.

First set: Federer 5–5 Philippoussis*

Sorry I didn’t see much of that game. I would imagine there were some powerful serves involved.I’m still a little flustered from playing football this morning and taking 40 minutes to drive down Upper Street in Islington. I had to get changed in the car, which I hope made the bus-driver’s day as we sat adjacent in traffic.

First set Federer* 6–5 Philippoussis*

Over in a flash. Ace, ace, ace, ace. Now can Federer pressure The Scud? Meanwhile Amalie the Australian’s computer crashes in a manner most English, Swiss and Kiwis hope Scud’s service game will.

First set Federer* 6–6 Philippoussis*

Federer gets 15–30 up, and then wastes his chance on a second serve that bounced high and invitingly in the advantage court. He tried a cross court passing shot to evade the oncoming Philipoussis, but buries it in the tramlines instead. Flicker of hope duly extinguished, a tie break beckons, in which Philippoussis will have the advantage with his sheer strength.

First set tie-break: Federer wins 7–6

A rally of 15 strokes takes Federer 3–2 up and he threatens a mini-break. The crowd are getting into this match, but luckily there’s not too many renditions of “Go the Pou”. I’m presuming Amalie’s not stitching me up as she reassures me Australians actually use this phrase to gee on their favourite.

Two set points for Federer as the Pou doublefaults and gives the Swiss two chances. Pou serves his way out but on Federer’s serve, and a second serve at that, he tries to come around the backhand and goes for a mighty forehand winner. Suffice to say that he hits it squarely into what you call in football, Row Z.

Signs of the Pou of old, perhaps, too volatile on the big points. But another sign of how evenly matched the two are is that the set was lost purely on this point and the doublefault earlier on.

Second set: Federer 1–0 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first set

Amazing stuff, Federer take the momentum and breaks the big man in the first game. He aims powerful shots at his opponents feet which Philippoussis is unable to get down to.

A mail from the Grommit, who questions my personl hygiene. “The first set is almost done, yet no pithy emails from your readers? I assume you showered this morning?”. Actually Grommit I came straight from football training, and got changed in the car, so I may well not be as fresh as a (clean) babies bottom. You’ll have to ask Amalie next to me if I’m minging.

Second set: Federer* 2–0 Philippoussis. Federer won the first set

And Federer continues in the same vein, driving balls on his forehand and backhand past the increasingly immobile Philippoussis.

Second set: Federer 3–0* Philippoussis. Federer won the first set

And a second break from the Swiss, who is bringing out some sublime tennis. He hits a shot into the net, which is such a rarity that the crowd gasp. The Pou is in danger of being trodden all over.

Second set: Federer* 4–0 Philippoussis. Federer won the first set

A glimmer of hope for Philippoussis as Federer seems to relax with his two break lead. But such is Federer’s mental strength that he claws it back. Courtesy of Philippoussis’ failure to exploit a second serve, he holds on to his own service game. Federer has now served 12 aces to the Pou’s eight. Who would have bet on that happening?

Second set: Federer 4–1 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first set

Stephwn Kalyniuk, who gives away his origins with the email heading “Mark Philippoussis Go Aussie GO”, believes that the Pou is just toying with his Swiss opponent, as he did with Alexander Popp in the quarterfinals.

“Mark Philippoussis will let Federer win the first two sets to tire him out then win the last three — Can’t make it look too easy — bad for the game.” Well you are entitled to your own Stephen, but you’ll get a more sympathetic response from Amalie.

Did you like the way Popp ( mother from Wolverhampton) became more and more British on the Beeb the further he progressed in the tournament? Utter desperation.

Second set: Federer* 5–1 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first set

Still demonstrating his range of shots to heap the pressure onto the Scud. Some dingo on the Aussie Alps admits that they call the Pou Greek if he loses, Aussie if he wins.

“Here I am in Dominica, begins Clive Sorhaindo, “Housesitting in the countryside for friends with a swimming pool….sounds great right but

(a) no cable TV therefore no Wimbledon and only contact is this online coverage (b) phone isn’t working © electricity comes and goes (this is the 2nd time I’m writing this email since power just went for about half an hour just as I was getting ready to press “send”) (d) whiny spoilt dog (e) having a pool party this afternoon (hoping my friends don’t follow Wimbledon online coverage) and right now it’s raining cats & dogs….”

I would have sympathy Clive Sorhaindo, but frankly if you can’t enjoy yourself in Domenica then maybe the problem is actually within yourself. I think I read that in an Irma Kutz column.

Second set: Federer 5–2 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first set

Philippoussis retains his dignity and stays in the second set.

Second set: Federer* 6–2 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first set

But not for long. Federer takes his own service game far away from the dejected looking Philippoussis to give himself a considerable lead. But we know that Philippoussis is superfit after his gruelling training regime of the past year, which involved him running up stairs until he had to crawl. He’s also been off the booze, which must have been a huge sacrifice for him.

Third set: Federer 0–1 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first and second sets

To a great roar of approval, Philippoussis keeps his serve. Boris Becker is urging the Pou to take more chances. But every time he does, he gets outwitted by Federer. However, his serve pulls him through again.

Third set: Federer* 1–1 Philippoussis. Federer won the first and second sets

Philippoussis has lost his rhythm on his returns and hits three into the net. That’s not going to be a winning formula against Federer — not making any unforced errors.

Third set: Federer 1–2 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first and second sets

Philippoussis withstands the challenge to his serve. At break point down he goes all out on his second serve — just clipping the line. The linesman calls it out, but the judge overrules it. Federer, who failed to make contact with the ball, does not dispute the call, although a McEnroe or a Rusedski may have done.

McEnroe’s not in the commentary box, as he is working for the Yanks today, leaving Sue Barker with no-one to flirt through the mike with, and leaving Boris Becker and John Barrett the opportunity to take the mickey. Which they are.

Talking of Becks, I’d love a nice cold one, and David Johnson asks:

“Is it just me or does Boris Becker sound similar to the German tourist guide from The League of Gentleman?”

I think it’s great that the BBC can’t find any credible British former tennis players to commentate.

Third set: Federer* 2–2 Philippoussis. Federer won the first and second sets

I wrote too much on that last game, meaning I missed most of this one. So here’s a stat. instead. The Pou has delivered 39 unreturnable serves, Federer 32.

Third set: Federer* 3–3 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first and second sets

My computer just went down, hence losing three games, and a very witty anecdote about Boris Becker’s wife. She is indeed in the crowd, along with child, who is exceptionally cute — although there’s not many signs of Boris there, apart from the unkempt hair. I’m not insinuating anything with that statement by the way.

Third set: Federer 3–4 Philippoussis*. Federer won the first and second sets

Philippoussis wins his service game with ease.

Third set: Federer* 4–4 Philippoussis. Federer won the first and second sets

And then Federer follows suit, winning his service game to love.

Third set: Federer 4–5 Philippoussis.* Federer won the first and second sets

The games are going so quickly because the players aren’t rallying. Whoever serves wins. Except for the short spell when Philippoussis couldn’t get his service rhythm together in the second set. If he were serving to his full potential, then he would be not be two sets down.

Third set: Federer* 5–5 Philippoussis. Federer won the first and second sets

Another succinct service game from the Swiss, piling the pressure onto Philippoussis as the game gets nearer to sudden death for Philippoussis.

Third set: Federer 5–6* Philippoussis. Federer won the first and second sets

Federer has two break points, one of which Philippoussis sees off with an immaculate serve and volley. On the second Federer finds himself running out of the deuce court and has the whole court open to him for a running forehand. His resultant shot goes just long, and Philippoussis goes on to boom-boom his way back into the game.

Stephen Kalyniuk berates me for stooping too low with the Pou. “The booze comment was pretty cheap — got nothing better to do? Where is Tim Henman? — down the boozer probably cause he is not in the final.”

Touche, Stephen. However, I wasn’t being catty. Philippoussis used to be a big drinker, he admits it himself. And his way of attracting the ladies was thus: “I never approached them,” he said. “I sat back at the bar and waited for them to come over to me. If they were pretty and fun to talk to, then I would invite them back to my room.”

From the horse’s mouth.

Third set: Federer* 6–6 Philippoussis. Federer won the first and second sets

Now it’s Federer’s turn to hold off the pressure. Which he does and they go into a nailbiting tiebreak.

Third set tie break: Federer 7–6 Philippoussis. Federer wins in straight sets. 7–6, 6–2, 7–6

Federer went straight into a 5–1 lead and looked like he was going to be the first Swiss to win Wimbledon? Something that Martina Hingis and Marc Rosset never managed to do before him.

Philippoussis had the chance to save himself as he comes around a backhand to thwack it cross court with his forehand. But as in the previous tie break, he hit it straight into the net and five match points ensued

Philippoussis saved the first two with the strength of his serves, but Federer stays focused and whips down a second serve that Philippoussis is unable to deal with. Hitting it meekly into the net he gifts the 21 year old his first Grand Slam.

Postamble: Federer looks absolutely gobsmacked. he sinks to his knees, and then cries as he sits down and tries to take it all in.

Both players receive their trophies and Philippoussis gets an ovation from the crowd as he says that he will be back again. Nobody would have guessed that he would have come this far this year, sadly for him, the fairytale of Ivanisevic couldn’t happen bi-annually.

As Philippoussis himself says, Federer deserved to win. Not just on the strength of this match, but together with the semi-final win over Andy Roddick, he played some sumptious tennis. Expect to see him, Roddick and Hewitt jousting for supremacy for the next few years. And Becker, McEnroe, Navratilova et al will be happy as this is a boy who serves and volleys.

The Great Epicurean

Reports on the art of living and dying.

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