When Roger Federer beat his current coach in the final in Rotterdam
Roger Federer won his first major title at Wimbledon 2003. The Swiss was set to launch an even stronger assault in 2004, winning 74 out of 80 matches and claiming 11 ATP titles, including three majors and three Masters 1000 tournaments.
In 2005, Roger failed to defend his Australian Open title, losing to Marat Safin in a fantastic semi-final clash after losing match point. Federer bounced back with his maiden title in Rotterdam on February 20, beating current coach Ivan Ljubicic 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 after challenging for two hours and 44 minutes!
It was their eighth meeting and the fifth victory for Roger, who had beaten Ivan in the Doha final five weeks earlier. Unlike that match against Qatar, Federer had to work much harder to oust the Croatian at the Ahoy Arena, winning his 15th consecutive final after that defeat at Gstaad in 2003.
Roger won ten points more than Ivan, played better on the first and second serves and fended off two out of three break chances to keep the pressure on the world number one. 19. Ivan fired 16 aces and saved five from six break points to stay in touch with Roger, three points clear of the tie break win.
It was undoubtedly the toughest test for Federer of the entire tournament, winning the previous four matches in straight sets and never dropping a serve. In the seventh game, the first break point came when Ljubicic was able to get past Federer’s forehand error.
The Swiss saved it with a service winner and held after a crosscourt forehand winner to break out of jail and avoid an early setback. The Croatian was even closer to winning the first set after earning three break chances at 5-5, converting the first when Roger netted a backhand.
Nerves started to appear for Ivan in the 12th game, but he remained calm and fended off a break chance with a fantastic backhand on the winning line before closing the set after Roger’s loose forehand. Early in the second set, the Croatian saved a break point and struggled again in the fourth game before bringing it home for 2-2.
Roger Federer beat Ivan Ljubicic in the 2005 Rotterdam final.
Federer was now in better rhythm, with another break chance in game six after Ljubicic’s weak forehand. The Swiss squandered it when his forehand landed long, allowing the Croatian to hold after two service winners.
Roger ran through his service games, with room to push hard on the return which gave him another break chance in game eight thanks to a forehand winner down the line. Ivan fended it off with a solid smash to stay unbroken, hoping to reach the tie-break where the pressure would be on Federer.
Back at 6-5, Federer produced two set points with a forehand winner and grabbed the second to take the set 7-5 and introduce a decider. Nothing could separate them in the first nine games of the deciding set, and Ivan held after a two while serving to stay in the game to level the score at 5-5 and add more drama and excitement.
Roger hit another deuce on the return in game 12, but Ljubicic stayed calm to start the game in a deciding tie-break, the best way to wrap up a close encounter. A service winner pushed Ivan 4-2 in front before losing the next point on serve that could have given him a huge lead, scoring a backhand to put Roger back on the scoreboard.
Two winners pushed the Swiss 5-4, and a massive forehand earned him another mini-break and two match points. He converted the second when Ljubicic sprayed a forehand error to celebrate his 24th ATP crown and the first in Rotterdam, where he made his debut six years earlier at 17.