Roger Federer's Major Awakening: The First Step Towards History

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Roger Federer's Major Awakening: The First Step Towards History
Roger Federer's Major Awakening: The First Step Towards History

17-year-old Roger Federer debuted at Majors on May 25, 1999, at Roland Garros. The upcoming Swiss met world no. 3 Patrick Rafter in the opening round in Paris and experienced a 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 loss in two hours and 13 minutes.

The former semi-finalist lost a tight opener before shifting into a higher gear and leaving the young gun far behind in sets two, three and four. Roger was the youngest player in the draw in Paris that spring, moving closer to a place in the top-100 following two ATP quarter-finals and three Challenger semi-finals since the start of the year.

Thus, Roger gained almost 200 positions on the ATP ranking list and wished for a good run on his debut on the notable scene. Federer served at 56% and plagued his chances for a better result. He struggled on the first and second serve and offered Rafter 17 break chances.

The Swiss defended ten, but it was not enough for more than a set.

Patrick Rafter defeated Roger Federer in four sets at the 1999 Roland Garros.

Rafter fended off seven out of nine break opportunities and took charge from the second set, imposing his strokes and marching over the finish line.

The more experienced player did just about everything right on the court. He committed fewer errors and kept his second serve safe to mount the pressure on the other side. Federer's shotmaking abilities were already well-known, although he lacked stamina and patience, especially in best-of-five matches that required more experience.

Also, the conditions did not work in his favor either, with the sun becoming stronger as the encounter progressed. It warmed the court and made it faster and more suitable for Rafter's attacking serve & volley style. They stayed neck and neck in the opener, and Federer grabbed a late break to secure it 7-5.

Patrick made a strong response in the second set, gaining a boost and securing a bagel in set number three in 23 minutes to open two sets to one advantage. Rafter served for the victory at 5-2 in the fourth set and fired a service winner to seal the deal and send Federer packing.

The Aussie was pleased with what he saw from the Swiss, saying he could become a great player if he continued to work hard. As we all know, Federer lifted the Roland Garros trophy ten years later, winning the elusive title running away from him in the last half a decade and completing a career Grand Slam.

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