The 16-year-old Federer had won Wimbledon junior title in 1998, making a senior debut a year later and losing to Jiri Novak in five sets. Federer forced a decider before the Czech bounced back to score a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 triumph in two hours and 18 minutes.
Returning to the All England Club as the top-40 player in 1999, Federer missed the first Wimbledon success after world no. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov toppled him in three tight sets. The more experienced player prevailed 7-5, 7-5, 7-6 in just over two hours, suffering three breaks and earning five to find himself over the top without staying on the court for longer against a dangerous rival.
A year later, Federer was in the top-15 by the time of Wimbledon, facing Christophe Rochus (his brother Oliver was Roger's junior doubles partner) and defeating him 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 for the first Wimbledon triumph on June 25.
It was a fantastic performance from the upcoming star, storming over his opponent and notching a quick victory, dropping 14 points on serve and stealing half of the return points to march into the second round.
Rochus did break Roger once in the second set but that gave him nothing, landing 49% of the first serve in and getting broken twice in each set to propel the rival over the finish line. Federer served at 77% and fired 18 aces and many more unreturned serves, keeping the points on his racquet and dominating at the net with his clinical volleys that left Christopher with no answer.
Pumped and motivated, Roger went on to beat another Belgian Xavier Malisse in the second round and then Jonas Bjorkman in the third, setting a thrilling meeting against the seven-time champion Pete Sampras for the place in the quarters.
In the clash of former and future Wimbledon kings, Roger scored a thrilling 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 victory in three hours and 41 minutes for the place in the quarters. The youngster won ten points more than the defending champion, fending off nine out of 11 break chances and stealing Pete's serve three times to find himself over the top.
They hit 174 service winners in 370 points (89 for Roger, 85 for Pete), with 47% of the points not seeing a rally at all! Also, 325 exchanges ended in the shortest range up to four strokes and the Swiss had a 170-155 advantage in those, doing more damage with the initial forehand or volley to forge the crucial difference and forge the triumph.
Pete had a 24-19 lead in the mid-range rallies with five to eight shots, not enough to carry him over the finish line, with only two points with more than eight shots, an excellent indicator of how fast the encounter was.
In the quarter-final, Federer lost to Tim Henman in four tight sets, ending his successful Wimbledon journey and returning two years later to become a champion.
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