In their only clash of two tennis legends, Roger Federer defeated Pete Sampras in the 2001 Wimbledon fourth round for his second consecutive Major quarter-final. The young gun toppled the seven-time champion 7-6(7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5 in three hours and 41 minutes to make a name for himself and earn all the headlines.
Competing at Wimbledon for the third time, the 1998 junior champion found his A-game to leave the legend and one of his idols behind, staying focused in the decider's closing stages to move over the top and secure one of the most emotional triumphs of his extensive career.
Federer came to London after reaching the Roland Garros quarter-final, eager to show his best tennis and enduring all the obstacles versus the legendary rival. It was the worst result for the American at his beloved tournament since 1991, winning 31 straight matches in the cathedral of tennis before this loss and suffering the first five-setter defeat as well!
Roger saved nine out of 11 break chances, produced his best tennis when it mattered the most and made a massive step forward after saving a set point in the first set tie break. They landed a service winner in almost half of the points on the fast grass court, with Federer having the upper hand in those dominant short exchanges.
In that segment, he took ten points more than Sampras and repelled two break chances at 4-4 in the decider to stay alive. Pete had to pay the price for those wasted chances, experiencing a break at 15 in game 12 and allowing Federer to seal the deal with a stunning return winner that propelled him into the quarters.
Roger Federer spoke about his epic victory over Pete Sampras at Wimbledon 2001.
"It feels unbelievable to beat Pete Sampras at Wimbledon. I went out on the court today trying to beat him, but I knew it would not be easy.
I'm pleased with my performance, from the first to the last point. It's just a great feeling I've never had before. I would say the return was the key factor of my victory because I had the feeling I had more chances than him.
Especially in the first three sets, I always had chances to break him, but he came up with some big serves. Then, out of a sudden, I did not have any break chances in the fourth and fifth sets. He was serving too well; maybe I was a bit passive on the returns in those moments, but I'm still happy with my game.
I felt excellent on the court since I won my first service game. That one is never easy to grab, especially after playing on the Centre Court for the first time against one of my idols. I won it at love or at 15, which gave me a little boost to go into the match.
The whole court was packed; there's no way you're going to stop fighting. Sometimes it was weird looking on the other side of the net and seeing Pete, but that feeling went away at some point; you think about your serve, where you're going to go, then it's like playing against maybe some other player. But obviously, it was something special for me to play against Pete," Roger Federer said.