On this day: Roger Federer makes ATP debut in Gstaad at the age of 16



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On this day: Roger Federer makes ATP debut in Gstaad at the age of 16

In what had been a super exciting year, Roger Federer was one of the main protagonists in a wild chase for junior year-end number 1 spot in 1998 after winning Wimbledon junior crown and he also made first steps on the Pro Tour, all at the age of 16 or 17!

That Wimbledon title (Roger went all the way in doubles with Olivier Rochus as well) put him in the spotlight of the tennis world and couldn't stay in London for too long after beating Irakli Labadze in the title clash.

Namely, soon after the final Roger received the news about receiving a wild card for the Swiss Open in Gstaad that was starting on Monday. The tournament director Kobi Hermenjat followed Federer's progress closely and his reaction was an instant one, giving a 16-year-old a chance to make an ATP debut despite his rank of 702nd!

Set in the Bernese Alps, the Swiss Open has a long tradition that goes back to 1915 and legends like John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Ken Rosewall and Roy Emerson (the Centre Court carries his name) all lifting the title there.

Roger had to be quick to get back home in time, skipping Wimbledon Champions Dinner and leaving London already on Sunday. He took a flight to Basel and carried on towards Gstaad by a car, reaching the resort well after midnight.

Roger held a press conference on Monday, speaking about his Wimbledon success and about the fact he wasn't happy with the organizers' decision to put his match against Tommy Haas outside the center court. In the meanwhile, Tommy had to withdraw before the encounter due to stomach trouble, with a lucky loser Lucas Arnold Ker from Argentina taking his place.

Court no. 1 was too small to embrace all the fans that wanted to see the young Swiss star in action and he gave them something to cheer about, losing 6-4, 6-4 in 80 minutes. Ker was a more experienced player and the clay-court specialist while Roger had to make a swift change from the low-bouncing grass to this fast clay court in a short time, unable to grab at least a set.

After the match, Ker said that Roger already owns a tremendous Sampras-like serve but the youngster managed to land only 49% of the first serve in on that day, which made him work much harder than he would have wanted. Ker broke Federer four times from five chances and that was enough for straight sets win despite the fact Roger broke once in each set.

Three months later, the Swiss reached the first ATP quarter-final in Toulouse, an excellent overture for even better results in 1999 that carried him towards the place in the top-70.