Two decades ago, the 19-year-old Swiss Roger Federer played one of the most important matches of his early career, suffering a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 loss to the Frenchman Arnaud Di Pasquale in the bronze match at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after two and a half hours.
In his first complete season on the ATP Tour, Roger had reached his first ATP final in Marseille in February at 18, losing to his compatriot Marc Rosset in the deciding tie break. The youngster had a busy schedule that season, entering almost 30 tournaments and scoring 36 wins to finish in the top-30.
After six straight losses in Miami and clay, Federer reached the fourth round at Roland Garros and the third round at the US Open, not playing well between those two Majors and heading to his first Olympic Games in Sydney with no form.
Facing no players from the top-30, Roger found his A-game while competing under the national colors, beating David Prinosil, Karol Kucera, Mikael Tillstrom and Karim Alami to advance to the last four, coming so close to winning the Olympic medal!
Tommy Haas proved to be too strong in the semi-final, beating Roger 6-3, 6-2 and sending the young Swiss to the bronze medal clash versus Arnaud Di Pasquale. After a grueling battle, the Frenchman prevailed in three sets to leave Roger empty-handed.
Federer was 3-0 up in the first set tie break, only to lose seven of the next nine points, handing it to Di Pasquale 7-5. They stayed neck and neck in set number two and delivered another tie break that Federer had to win to remain in contention.
Keeping his coolness, Roger saved a match point at 6-7, taking the next three points to steal it 9-7 and send the match into a decider, where he had the momentum.
In Sydney 2000, Roger Federer barely missed a medal.
There, Federer had an early break and it seemed he would bring the encounter home and grab an Olympic medal for Switzerland as a teenager.
Nonetheless, Di Pasquale pulled the break back and won the set 6-3, taking that final place on the podium and leaving Roger with no medal. Federer was mighty disappointed with the outcome, although there were some positive things for him in Sydney.
He started dating the fellow Swiss tennis player Mirka Vavrinec, his future wife and one of the most influential persons in his life that helped him a lot throughout his career. In Athens 2004, Federer missed a chance to fight for the medal, suffering an early loss in singles in 2008 but conquering the doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka to embrace Olympic glory.