Before Roger could speak English — and before he cut off his long locks of youth — he was just an up-and-comer with a potentially magical game.
This is before the Rolex deals, the 17 Grand Slam titles, before the wonder of it all was revealed. This is when Roger was young, fresh and extremely ambitious.
He spoke to Trans World Sport back in 2001 at his home in Basel, Switzerland. This is just after his fourth-round win over Sampras at Wimbledon, ending Pete’s 31-match win streak at Wimbledon, and denying his bid for a fifth consecutive title.
For his debut on Centre Court, the 19-year-old Federer showed few signs of nerves as he won the match in five sets. It was the biggest win of his young career.
Roger had this to say about the win:
“That was obviously a bit of a dream come true for me. It was incredible that I was able to win, especially on Centre Court. He [Pete] used to be one of my idols, together with Edberg and Becker. So to be able to play against him and to beat him was an incredible moment for me, especially at Wimbledon, my favorite tournament.”
He eveuntually lost to Tim Henman in the Quarterfinals, but what carries through — and this is what I appreciate most about Roger — is his confidence and sophistication. Even at this young age he was professional, courteous and very sure of himself.
And this is why he’s still playing tennis. Sure, his past success has helped, but at the core of it all is a love of the game.
Unlike another up-and-comer that comes to mind (his name rhymes with Shernard Shomic), we could all stand to learn a little lesson on respect from Roger.
I’m not saying his time is done, or that his retirement is right around the corner — there’s still a lot of fight left in Rog. And as you can see in the video, just being on the court is where Roger feels most at home…