It has been 23 years (and counting) since Swiss maestro Roger Federer turned pro on the ATP tour. Federer's first tournament was in Switzerland (Gstaad), where he lost in the second round. While it took years for the Swiss to achieve consistent success at the highest level, he had to dominate some of the best players of that era for victories, especially in the majors.
The likes of Marat Safin, Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian and others have done their best to prevent Federer from winning titles initially. But, the 20-time Grand Slam champion managed to outlive all these players to make a special place for himself in tennis history.
Since 1998, the Swiss star played with different generations of players and each generation posed different challenges. While Safin, Hewitt, Nalbandian, etc., questioned his basic skill, stars like Nadal and Djokovic forced him to make modifications to his game to stay on top.
Not many high-performance athletes can proudly say that they have faced different generations of players and still managed to rise to the top, proving their adaptability to the ever-changing sport. Now, with Federer taking a break from the current 2021 ATP season due to knee surgery, let's take a look at the players who debuted on the tour around the same time as Federer.
Marat Safin Before the start of the Federer phenomenon, Russian tennis star Marat Safin ruled the roost.
Fish pays tribute to Roger Federer
Former World No. 7 Mardy Fish recently gave his thoughts on Roger Federer's post-2003 ascendancy.
Fish claimed that Federer was the reason male American tennis players, including himself and Andy Roddick, couldn't assert themselves on the tour. "Roger had this aura of invincibility about him where you just could never breathe, cause he could turn it like that," Fish said.
"Boom. Point's over." Mardy Fish went on to recall his 2004 Halle final against Roger Federer. "We played in the final of 2004 in Halle," Fish said. "Roger went up 6-0, 3-0 in like 25 minutes. I'm like 'unbelievable, this guy's gonna beat me 6-0, 6-0 in the finals of a tournament'
I think he probably felt bad for all of the people that had paid money to come watch, and I'm still to this day convinced that he prolonged the match a little bit longer so it was 6-0, 6-3. He made it like an hour. And when it couldn't get any worse, in 2005, a guy named Nadal came around and then 2007 a guy named Novak Djokovic," Fish added.