By Jürgen Fritz, Sat 03 Jul 2021, Cover picture: Wimbledon-Screenshot
20 years ago yesterday: In the fourth round, 19-year-old Roger Federer beats the greatest Wimbledon champion of all time up to that point, the seven-time (!!!!!!!) tournament winner and defending champion, the ten-year older, all-important player of the 1990s Pete Sampras. It will – unfortunately – remain the only encounter between these two. 14 months later …
… after his fifth US Open victory (exactly twelve years after his first), the great Pete Sampras, a few days after his 31st birthday, ends his career, never plays another match on the men’s professional tour after this 14th Grand Slam victory, in which he defeats Andre Agassi in the final exactly as he did twelve years earlier.
Federer wins his first Wimbledon title two years later, in 2003, becomes the outstanding player of the 2000s, dominates this decade even more than Sampras did the decade before. 16 years after that match, in July 2017, he then breaks Sampras‘ record, winning Wimbledon for the eighth (!!!!!!!!) time. Federer will also break Sampras‘ all-time record of 14 Grand Slam titles, voted the world’s most popular player by tennis fans 18 times in a row despite Nadal and Djokovic, winning a whopping 20 A titles, almost as many as Jimmy Connors (8), John McEnroe (7) and Boris Becker (6) together – and doing so with a looseness and elegance of play the likes of which the world has never seen.
Two years ago, in July 2019, Federer even had two match points on his own serve in the final against Novak Djokovic in the fifth set after more than four hours of play for his ninth Wimbledon and 21st Grand Slam win. However, he cannot use both match points at 8-7, 40-15 and loses after almost five hours in the longest Wimbledon final of all times, one of the most high-class and dramatic tennis matches ever played, against probably the greatest tennis warrior of all times with 12:13 in the fifth set, in the newly introduced super tiebreak, which is not played at 6:6 in the deciding set, but at 12:12. It was of no use to Federer against this mental monster that he was the better player for long stretches and scored more points overall, as Djokovic lost two sets relatively clearly (4:6) and even very clearly (1:6), but won all three tiebreaks played in sets one, three and five.
2021, 20 years later: In the next few days, Federer, now 39.8 years old, will try again to break his own all-time record of eight Wimbledon and 20 Grand Slam wins, especially as the Roland Garros king Nadal now also has 20 A titles and Djokovic, six years younger, the defending champion and big tournament favourite, who is desperate to break Federer’s and Nadal’s record, has 19. First up for Federer today in his third round match is the currently very strong Brit Cameron Norrie. No easy task!
Roger Federer vs Pete Sampras: Wimbledon fourth round, 2001 (Extended Highlights)
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