Nineteen years ago, Roger Federer claimed the first Masters 1000 crown in Hamburg, beating Marat Safin in the title clash. Roger experienced another solid participation on the slower surface next spring, winning the title in Munich in commanding style to lift the seventh ATP crown.
With no time to celebrate, the 21-year-old traveled south and participated in the Masters 1000 event in Rome, seeking first notable results in the Italian capital. Roger found Game A of his in Rome that year, beating Paul-Henri Mathieu, Mariano Zabaleta, Tommy Robredo, Filippo Volandri and Juan Carlos Ferrero en route to his third Masters 1000 final and second on clay.
Hoping to win consecutive titles on the slowest surface, Federer faced Spaniard Felix Mantilla and suffered a 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 defeat in two hours and 41 minutes, losing for the first time since Miami and changing his focus on defending the title in Hamburg.
Mantilla fended off 14 of 17 break opportunities to maintain his composure when it mattered most for his 10th and final ATP title, also his first at the Masters 1000 level!
Gasquet pays tribute to Roger Federer
Richard Gasquet recently called Roger Federer the "greatest player of all time" who cannot be replaced given his elegant playing style.
Gasquet also acknowledged, however, that Novak Djokovic has achieved some "incredible" feats and that he is the best player right now. "I see tennis differently, I've always said that for me it's not just the number of Grand Slam titles that matters," Richard Gasquet said.
"One at 21, the other at 22 or 23. I don't just see the Grand Slam winner, I look at the aesthetics, what you give off on the court. I often hear the race to the highest, it is a pointless subject. For me, Roger Federer is irreplaceable, he's the greatest player of all time when I see the aesthetics, the grace he has on the court.
Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are the three best players in history, without a doubt," Gasquet said. "Afterwards, it's always complicated to compare the generations. They have 20 Grand Slams each and physically have never fallen for twenty years, it is stupendous."
Richard Gasquet then reiterated that "aesthetics" is an important factor for him while watching any sport, and that he likes watching Lionel Messi and Neymar play. That is also why the Frenchman enjoys watching Roger Federer in action more than any other player, including Novak Djokovic.