Swiss tennis maestro Roger Federer fondly remembered his chance to compete against legend Pete Sampras, saying it was “really exciting playing against the guys from television”.
Federer was just 19 years old when he took on Sampras in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2001. “I never got a chance to play (Boris) Becker and (Stefan) Edberg, but Pete clearly was huge, plus it was on Centre Court at Wimbledon. It was just already very exciting playing against the guys you knew from TV, doesn’t matter who it is,” Federer was quoted as saying by the ATP website on Friday.
The 17-time Grand Slam winner also said he had thought then whether he will be able to compete against the greats of the game, but then found out it was quite “easy to win games”.
“You just wonder: Does your game actually match up with those kind of guys? Because it’s so surreal that you don’t think it does, and then you realize it’s so easy to win games,” the 33-year-old said.
“I thought it was the most exciting time almost in my playing career, rubbing shoulders with those guys, seeing them prepare, joke around, being one of you, and all of a sudden, you become friends with them. I think it’s very cool,” Federer, who won the Davis Cup for the first time with Switzerland last year, added.
Federer toppled Damir Dzumhur 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the Round of 16 at Roland Garros for an 11th straight year on Friday. As engaged as both players and fans were in their third-round battle, there were two spectators who may have been a bit distracted: Federer’s five-year-old twin girls sat in the stands engrossed in a comic book and a smart phone.
“They are happy when I’m back from the matches,” Federer said with a laugh.
“They are happy when I come back from practice because they like spending time with me rather than me being gone. I’m happy it’s that way and not the other way, that they can’t wait for me to go play tennis.
“Clearly they like looking at their books and all that stuff. I don’t blame them. It’s sweet that they are out with their friends, together as a family. Today they are old enough to not make any more noise and stuff, so it’s nice to see them out there,” he added.