After a reliable closure of the 2002 season, Roger Federer took some 20 days off ahead of the new one, skipping the Hopman Cup and kicking off the campaign in Doha. The Swiss was far from the pace that made him the Masters 1000 champion and a top-10 player last year, struggling in the opening matches in Doha and losing to world no. 42 Jan-Michael Gambill 6-4, 7-5. Traveling to Sydney, Roger was eager to defend the title claimed 12 months ago, but that did not happen after he experienced an unexpected 6-2, 6-3 loss to Franco Squillari in only 54 minutes. Federer did not look good on the court and headed to Melbourne for the Australian Open with many concerns. Roger could not find the rhythm on serve and return against the Argentine, earning only one break chance and losing serve four times as he did not move or serve as he would have wanted. Speaking about his injuries after the match, Roger mentioned both knees, hip and the right groin that prevented him from playing injury-free ahead of the Australian Open, hoping for a better fortune at the season’s first Major.
Roger Federer struggled with injuries at the beginning of 2003.
“The problems came against Gambill in Doha; that’s when I felt for the first time. My knee was hurting, but it went away, followed by my other knee and hip. However, it was not anything serious. At the beginning of the previous season, I struggled with injuries at the Hopman Cup, and it took me almost a week to recover. I could not play at 100% in Perth, and it’s a bit similar now; I think my body has to get used to playing matches again after a break. I hope everything will be fine. I have to check with my physio; we will get together and decide how much I can practice. We will probably stay here in Sydney for another day or two and see how things go with my legs. If you see me around, I will be fine. It was not easy to play against Squillari in windy conditions. Everything was much different from Doha last week; I could not adjust. I was struggling with my footwork, and you can not expect a better result if you can not move well,” Roger Federer said.