Today, January 18, falls a very special anniversary for Roger Federer. In fact, on this date, 21 years ago, the phenomenon from Basel took his first Grand Slam victory, at the Australian Open 2000. Maybe not everyone remembers it but Federer's first scalp in one of the four great tennis tournaments is it was nothing short of excellent: it is in fact Michael Chang, winner of Roland Garros in 1989 and former n.2 in the world.
Federer, 18 at the time, was showing up in Melbourne for the first time, as one of the new sensations on the circuit. In the previous season, he had climbed over 200 positions in the standings, stopping at # 62. In his first two Grand Slam appearances he had been defeated with honor against established players, two-time Slam champion Patrick Rafter at Roland Garros and Czech Jiri Novak at Wimbledon, showing flashes of his enormous talent.
Chang, who was 28 and had been on the tour for 13 seasons now, was in the waning phase of his career and was out of the top 30. But it was still Michael Chang, one of the most famous names in tennis in the nineties. And Federer was just a very promising Swiss kid who had won Wimbledon juniors a couple of years earlier.
“I don't remember everything well. For example, I don't remember our positions in the standings. But there is one thing that I have not forgotten. As we were about to enter the field, I walked behind Michael and you noticed that he had his name on his shoes.
I thought: 'when you have your name on your shoes, it means you are one of the best,' "Federer said. Speaking to Smash Magazine, his coach Severin Luthi revealed that in a career spanning over two decades, the Swiss has never complained nor wished for a break from tennis.
Luthi talks about Roger Federer's surgery
"It doesn't have a big influence on him (Roger Federer) personally though. He isn't the person who is sitting at home, being frustrated and thinking: they are playing but I can't," Severin Luthi explained.
This isn't the first instance of a knee injury for Roger Federer, as the Swiss had to undergo similar troubles in 2016 when he took a six-month hiatus. Luthi talked about the similarities between the two injury breaks, and how the Swiss can implement the lessons learned from last time.
"There are certain parallels for sure," Luthi said. "Both times he had surgery, both times there was a setback in rehab and in both cases it was obvious, that it would need more time to get back to 100%. Maybe he can benefit a bit from 2016 this time."