Roger Federer has competed in Munich just once on the ATP Tour, in 2003. The Swiss certainly made his visit count.

Only 21 at the time, Federer arrived in Germany for his first clay-court action of the season. In 2002, the Swiss showed he was capable of doing well on the surface, winning the Hamburg title. But Federer lost in the first round at 2002 Roland Garros, and clay was not his favourite surface.

That didn’t show in Munich, though. Federer won the title without dropping a set, clinching his third of seven tour-level titles in 2003.

“Clay is not my favourite surface and I’m surprised to be playing so well after just a few weeks of training,” Federer said after defeating Jarkko Nieminen 6-1, 6-4 in the final, according to Reuters.

Federer’s Road To The 2003 Munich Title

Federer only lost serve twice from the quarter-finals on, and both those service games came against Nieminen. But his return game made that moot, as the rising star won more than 54 per cent of his return points against his Finnish opponent.

“Congratulations to Roger, he was by far the best player the whole week. It was tough. I had to play so well every point just to have a chance,” Nieminen said. “Today, I never had a chance.”

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Throughout the tournament, Federer’s return was his biggest weapon. In his five straight-sets victories, the champion won a combined 49 per cent of his return points.

Federer’s Munich run set the stage for a strong effort the next week at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, where he made the final. In the semi-finals there, Federer beat Juan Carlos Ferrero, who would win Roland Garros that year.

Even though Federer suffered another early exit in Paris, he’d enjoy a breakthrough season, winning his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon and the Tennis Masters Cup.