Roger Federer played his first Grand Slam match in a career at Roland Garros 1999, making a debut on the big scene in Paris on May 25. The 17-year-old Swiss was the youngest player in the draw, already ranked 111th after reaching two ATP quarter-finals and three Challenger semi-finals earlier that year, kicking off the season from just inside the top-300!
His rival in the first round was world no. 3 Patrick Rafter who played his best tennis in those years, conquering two US Open titles and claiming Cincinnati and Canada Masters 1000 events last summer. The youngster made the best start, taking the opening set 7-5 before Patrick seized control, delivering a 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 13 minutes for the tenth victory at Roland Garros, reaching the semi-final in Paris two years ago.
The more experienced player did just about everything right on the court, committing fewer errors and keeping his second serve safe to fend off seven out of nine break points and mount the pressure on the other side of the court.
Federer's shotmaking abilities were already well-known in the world of tennis, although he lacked stamina and patience, especially in the best-of-five matches like this one that required more experience. Also, the conditions didn't work in his favor either, with the sun becoming stronger as the encounter progressed, warming the court and making it faster and more suitable for Rafter's attacking serve and volley style.
The Aussie held the strings of the clash in his hands after the second set and dropped only five games in the next three sets, leaving the young Roger with no answer. Patrick stormed to win the third set 6-0 in 23 minutes and sealed the deal with a service winner in the eighth game of the fourth set to move into the second round.
The Aussie was pleased with what he saw from the Swiss, saying he could become a great player if he continues to work hard. As we all know, Federer did manage to lift the trophy at the Roland Garros ten years later, finally winning the elusive title that was running away from him in the last half a decade or so and completing a career Grand Slam.