'Roger Federer had to become GOAT. I knew that,' ATP ace recalls



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'Roger Federer had to become GOAT. I knew that,' ATP ace recalls

An eight-time Major champion Andre Agassi had a chance to meet the upcoming star Roger Federer in Basel 1998. The American scored a convincing victory, but he was sure that Roger possessed unique tennis knowledge and skills to guide him towards greatness.

It was the third ATP tournament for the super talented teenager, who arrived in Basel ranked 396th after reaching the first ATP quarter-final in Toulouse a week earlier. The draw in his hometown was cruel, sending Federer against world no.

8 Andre Agassi, who was back on the winning way after hitting rock bottom in 1997. The more experienced opponent needed only an hour to dismiss the upcoming junior 6-3, 6-2, delivering more winners and committing fewer errors to control the pace.

Agassi struggled to find the first serve (48%), but that did not affect his game. He dropped 14 points in nine service games and suffered one break from two chances offered to Federer. Besides a few solid service games, Roger never found his rhythm against a top-10 rival.

The home player dropped almost half of his games' points and got broken four times from eight chances offered to the American. Agassi had 19 service winners in comparison to Federer's 13, with the Swiss hitting ten winners from the field and leaving the American on eight.

Andre mastered his shots with depth and precision, spraying seven unforced errors against the youngster's 20, as Roger was missing equally from both wings. Agassi forced 13 errors from Federer and stayed on ten.

Andre Agassi and Roger Federer met for the first time in Basel 1998.

We saw 27 winners and 17 errors from the American and a negative 23-33 ratio from the young Swiss.

A teenager showed his immense talent and shotmaking abilities in some more extended rallies. Still, those were just the sparkles and not a part of the constant and aggressive game plan he would develop in the years to come.

62% of the points ended in the shortest range up to four strokes, and Andre had a 37-27 advantage in them thanks to his deep returns and good serving. He also had the upper hand in the mid-range rallies from five to eight shots, winning 18 out of 30 points in that area.

As was expected, the American mastered the most extended exchanges, taking seven out of nine to round up his excellent performance. Agassi grabbed an early break in game two and delivered a comfortable hold for a 3-0 lead.

Roger saved a break point in game four to get his name on the scoreboard after four deuces, followed by another easy hold for Agassi, who moved 4-1 up. Service winners sent the American 5-2 ahead and sealed the opener on serve in game nine after 30 minutes.

The youngster kicked off the second set with a double fault and made three more to drop serve, forced to chase the result from the early stages. Federer converted his second break point in game two from 40-0 down to level the score at 1-1.

He moved in front in the third game with a hold at love before spraying errors at 2-2 to hand the game to his opponent. Andre produced another break to forge a 5-2 advantage and sealed the deal with four winners in game eight.

"The day I faced Federer, I realized I was playing against the future greatest player of all time," Andre Agassi said.