Former junior champion Roger Federer arrived at Wimbledon 2001 with no victories at the All England Club on the main level, changing that in the next two weeks to reach the quarter-final. In the fourth round, the Swiss toppled the defending champion and the living legend of Wimbledon Pete Sampras after an incredible five-setter that lasted for three hours and 41 minutes, staying composed in the closing stages of the decider to notch the most significant victory of his career up to that point.
Pete scored 56 wins in the last 57 encounters at Wimbledon, dominating the event since 1993 and seeking the eighth crown despite not having a great season behind him, struggling in the previous rounds as well to arm Roger with confidence.
After dropping the third set, the American found the rhythm again in the fourth to lose only eight points in six service games and clinch it 7-2 in the tie break, setting up a decider and gaining the momentum again. Creating two break chances at 4-4 in the decider, Sampras had a colossal opportunity to steal the victory and stay undefeated in the five-setters at the All England Club, denied by Federer who pulled some marvelous shots to bring the game home, staying on the positive side of the scoreboard and securing the win with a break at 6-5.
"Physically, I feel much better this year, delivering great tennis on big points and fending off so many break chances Pete had. My serve has improved; on the grass, I can serve and volley now, something I wasn't capable of before.
A few players, a few coaches, my friends and myself, we all thought I can beat him. I knew I would stand a chance but wasn't 100% sure; he was still the man to beat on grass. What really worried me in the fourth set was that volley I missed at 1-1 in the tie break, sending the momentum to his side of the court after that.
Still, I knew there's the fifth set if I lose the tie break and was fine with that, feeling good physically and with no signs of pressure. When I was down two break points in the ninth game of the decider, I was afraid because I had the feeling he was raising his game, started making the returns and making me play.
There I was terrified for a while but I survived it and came back strong. The half volley I played in that ninth game was a massive one. I was scared when I had to face break point. I just told myself, "Be aggressive, go to the net."
Yeah, I came up with a good half volley, finished it on the backhand side. I think where I was a little bit scared was on the other break point, that second serve, played it to his forehand. He had a running forehand. I was happy he didn't make it.
I think this match will give me as much confidence as I can get; this is the biggest win in my life. Now I'm going to play Tim Henman or Todd Martin if that's correct. I've played them before, although I never beat Henman. After beating Pete, I think maybe I have a chance to win the title; I don't know."