When Roger Federer felt relieved and wanted to cry
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 3138
In February 2001, Roger Federer experienced one of the most important months of his early career. The young Swiss clinched the first ATP title in Milan for a massive boost ahead of the following week's Davis Cup, where Switzerland hosted the USA in Roger's hometown of Basel.
With no Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi in the American squad, Federer took down Todd Martin in four sets on Friday before stepping on the court in doubles as well together with Lorenzo Manta. The Swiss pair delivered the second point for their country thanks to a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 triumph over Jan-Michael Gambill and Justin Gimelstob.
On February 11, a teenager took down Jan-Michael Gambill 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in three hours to seal the deal for his country and send it into the next round. Thus, Roger became only the seventh player in the Davis Cup history with three victories over the record-holders USA in the same tie, joining Laurie Doherty (1903), Henri Cochet (1928), Frank Sedgman (1951), Neale Fraser (1959), Nicola Pietrangeli (1961) and Raul Ramirez (1975).
Playing with an extra motive and desire in front of the partisan crowd, Roger fended off three set points at 4-5 in the opener, broke Gambill in the next game and held at love for 7-5 and a considerable momentum. Federer played even better in set number two to forge a massive advantage before losing ground a bit in the third.
The home star returned to his best with a break in the fourth set's third game and controlled the pace to take it 6-2 and push Switzerland into the World Group quarter-final.
Roger Federer defeated the USA in the Davis Cup almost alone in 2001.
"It was an excellent match today.
I was playing on a high level, but not unbelievably, trying to break the rival's rhythm and make him play bad. My legs were hurting, but I was fighting; it was such a relief in the end that I had to cry. It was such a nice feeling I had never experienced before.
I started to feel left leg problems already in the first set. I was like, 'What is this now?' It was probably because of the last week and all the pressure in the previous two matches this weekend. Still, I never thought it would bother me; I felt it was better in the third and fourth sets.
I had muscle pain already yesterday, and it's probably a combination of everything. My overall game was good for the whole weekend; I can not complain. I'm serving well and feeling fine from the baseline, staying focused despite the tiredness, which was not always the case in the past.
The crowd was also behind me, which helped a lot. It's so hard to explain the feelings that go through your head. It was a total relief and happiness at once; I was so happy for the team and Switzerland to beat such a big country.
I'm pleased about my performance all weekend, and I think I can play better on this surface. Maybe it has something to do with the balls because I can usually hit more winners from the baseline; the balls were pretty heavy, I thought.
I played against Jan-Michael at the Hopman Cup and could not fire many more winners from the baseline in these fast indoor conditions; it was almost impossible. I would like to face Pete Sampras for the first time. When I was young, he was my idol, and I want to play guys like him every week, although they are not playing the same weeks as I'm.
It would be nice to challenge the top guys regularly, and if I keep playing well, I'm going to achieve that," Roger Federer said.