'He Could Become An Excellent Player' - Remember Roger Federer’s Grand Slam Debut 21 Years Later - UBITENNIS
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‘He Could Become An Excellent Player’ – Remember Roger Federer’s Grand Slam Debut 21 Years Later

More than two decades ago on this day was the start of where it all began for the former world No.1. But what did he and his opponent think about his first match played at a major?

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Roger Federer at the 1999 French Open

On this day 21 years ago the most decorated grand slam champion in the history of men’s tennis began his major career.

 

Roger Federer embarked upon the 1999 French Open as the youngest player in the field and yet to break into the world’s top 100. Aged 17, the Swiss player was yet to play in the final of an ATP Tournament and only managed to enter the Roland Garros main draw thanks to a wild card. His opponent was third seed Pat Rafter who at the time was at the peak of his career. The Australian had won back-to-back US Open titles leading up to the tournament.

Undoubtedly the odds were piled heavily against a young and inexperienced Federer, but he still managed to make his mark. Surprisingly taking the first set before Rafter fought back to eventually win 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.

“The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,” the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote at the time.

Rafter echoed a similar view to L’Equipe during his post-match media engagements. He went on to become one of the few players to have a perfect winning record against Federer of 3-0. Also defeating him twice during the 2001 season.

“The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.”

Rafter’s prediction came true but even he at the time didn’t expect the 17-year-old to go on and become one of the greatest. Now Federer holds the records for most grand slam titles (20), most weeks as world No.1 (310) and has won more ATP Awards than anybody else (37). Approaching the age of 39, he remains a prominent fixture in the world’s top 10 18 years on from his debut.

Federer has spoken about his first taste of a grand slam a few times in the past. One of his most notable observations was during a conversation he had with Rafter at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships. When speaking about losing his one set lead, the Swiss maestro said it was partly to do with his mental weakness and showing too much respect to the top guns at the time.

”I was up a set and I was just 17 years old and I wasn’t expected to win,” Federer recounted. ”I think I got broken in the second set and I was like ‘Oh, God, what am I doing?’
”Next thing you know I’m losing 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. It was very mental. I had a lot of respect for the older generation who were already accomplished. Obviously stars like Pat were, for me, people I really looked up to, even though I knew I could beat them. Mentally I was not so solid.”

Rafter has also admitted that his 1999 victory was partly down to the mental weakness of his rival during a 2018 interview with Blick newspaper. However, he blames losing the first set on never playing Federer before.

“I met Roger for the first time at the French Open in 1999. It was his grand slam debut. Since I did not know his game at the time, it took me some time to adjust to him. That’s why I lost the first set,” he said.
“Roger’s biggest handicap was his mental maturity, he was only 17 years old. That was one of the reasons why I came back and win in four sets.”

Whilst the French Open was where it all began for Federer, his record in the major is the worst out of the four grand slams. It is the only one he has failed to win multiple times, claiming his sole title back in 2009. Overall, he has played in the main draw 18 times with a win-loss of 70-17.

How old was the current top 10 when Federer made his grand slam debut?

  1. Novak Djokovic – 12
  2. Rafael Nadal – 12
  3. Dominic Thiem – 5
  4. Roger Federer – 17
  5. Daniil Medvedev – 3
  6. Stefanos Tsitsipas – 9 months
  7. Alexander Zverev – 2
  8. Matteo Berrettini – 3
  9. Gael Monfils – 12
  10. David Goffin – 8

(numbers in years unless otherwise stated)

Grand Slam

Wimbledon Set To Change Historic All-White Dress Code Rule

The clothing policy at the the grass-court major, which dates back to the Vcitoria era, has been under increasing scruity in recent years.

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 3 Wednesday 30/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

It is understood that The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) are having discussions about making changes to its dress code following concerns from female players. 

 

The Telegraph is among a series of sources to report that organizers are speaking with the WTA about changing their policy to address players’ concerns about playing in white whilst going through their menstrual cycle. Whilst no official announcement has been made, it is underwood that there will be a relaxation on what colour underwear and bras are worn. Although the top layer of clothing must remain completely white. 

During this year’s championships, there was a protest shortly before the women’s finals called ‘Address The Dress Code.’ During an interview worth The Guardian, protesters said they wanted to highlight the anxiety women face whilst playing in their whites. 

More recently, tennis coach and former British Fed Cup captain Judy Murray told The Daily Mail that more players needed to speak out on the issue to drive a change to the policy. Murray, who is the mother of three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, has also called for the inclusion of women in the decision-making panel when it comes to these matters. 

“One of the biggest problems previously in sport was that it was always white shorts, white kit and so on in lots of different sports. Everything was white. Nearly all sports have moved over to colour now.” Said Murray. 

“I think it’s certainly a much more open talking point, but it would probably need more of the players to speak out openly about the trauma it can cause you, if you are wearing all white and then possibly have a leak while you’re playing. I cannot think of a much more traumatic experience than that.”

In a statement sent to The Telegraph, the AELTC confirmed that they are currently looking into making adjustments to the dress code. As it currently stands, the rule states that all players must wear almost all white whilst playing and practising at the Grand Slam. However, around the neckline and the cuff of sleeves can be in colour but no thicker than 1cm. The same applies to Caps (including the underbill), headbands, bandanas, wristbands and socks. 

“Prioritising women’s health and supporting players based on their individual needs is very important to us, and we are in discussions with the WTA, with manufacturers and with the medical teams about the ways in which we can do that.” The AELTC said. 

The all-white policy can be traced back to the 1870s when it was widely considered that white was best at not showing sweat. During the Victorian era, it was viewed as improper to visibly sweat. The tournament has since continued with this tradition. 

Next year’s Wimbledon will begin on Monday, July 3rd. 

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ATP

Nick Kyrgios Urges Officials To Allow Djokovic To Play Australian Open

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Nick Kyrgios has lent his full support to Novak Djokovic and his bid to be allowed to return to the Australian Open next year. 

 

Nine-time champion Djokovic is currently waiting to see if government officials will waive his ban from entering the country. Earlier this year, the former world No.1 was deported from Australia following a high-profile dispute regarding the legality of his visa. Djokovic said he was told by Tennis Australia that a medical exemption would allow him entry into the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. Something the border force and government deemed not to be a legitimate reason. After winning his first court case regarding the process of how his detention was handled, a second at the High Court ruled in favour of the government, who decided to deport him. 

Under Australian law, deportations such as these result in a three-year ban from returning to the country. However, Djokovic is hoping his ban will be removed by the latest administration who are said to be more sympathetic to the matter. 

Weighing in on the debate during the opening of the NBA store in Sydney, Kyrgios said it was important for the sport that the best players participate. Citing the recent retirement of Roger Federer, he argues that the remaining members of the Big Three must continue showing their presence at major events. 

I hope he is here, for the sport,” WAtoday quoted Kyrgios as saying.
“We just saw one of the legends leave the sport, Roger, and that’s going to be some shoes that no one is ever going to be able to fill.
“While Novak and Rafa [Rafael Nadal] are still around, we need these types of players. Otherwise, the people of Australia love the AO, Ash Barty brought us crowds, me and Thanasi [Kokkinakis] won it.
“We want to see the best players in the world there. Me being a competitor, I want to see Novak there.“

Djokovic’s potential presence at Melbourne Park would make him one of the key contenders for the title and could make it tougher for Kyrgios to claim his first Grand Slam title. The two locked horns in the final of Wimbledon earlier this year with Kyrgios claiming the first set before losing in four. 

“Of course, you want to have those guys there,” he said.
“He’s some of the reason why I play. As a kid, you want to play the best players in the world in the best stadiums. Hopefully, he is there.
“He’s had a rough run the last nine months and not being able to play here, play here, not being able to play here, hopefully, Australia welcomes him with open arms this time.”

Djokovic has won the Australian Open men’s title more times than anybody else in history. It is unclear when a final decision regarding his participation in the 2023 tournament will be made. 

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ATP

‘Unofficial’ Signs Give Novak Djokovic Hope Of Australian Open Return

The tennis star has given an update on his chances of returning to Melbourne Park following his deportation from the country.

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

Novak Djokovic says he is cautiously optimistic that he will be allowed to play at the 2023 Australian Open as legal negotiations continue. 

 

The 21-time Grand Slam champion was deported from the country in January following a high-profile legal battle with authorities over his visa. Djokovic said he was told he could use a medical exemption to enter the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. At the time all arrivals needed to be vaccinated. The Australian border Force declared that exemption to be invalid and therefore his visa. Djokovic was then moved to an immigration facility before winning a court hearing over how his case was handled. However, in a second legal hearing, the High Court backed the government’s decision to deport the tennis star. 

As a result of being removed from Australia, Djokovic is currently banned from re-entering for three years. However, there is hope that this ban could be waived with the help of a new administration coming to power which is understood to be more sympathetic to the situation. 

“When it comes to Australia, there are some positive signs, but unofficially,” Djokovic said during a recent interview with Sportal“We are communicating through my lawyers in Australia. In fact, they are communicating with the authorities in charge of my case. I hope to have an answer in the next few weeks – whatever that answer might be, but of course I am hoping for a positive one – so that I have enough time to prepare for the start of the season, if that start is going to happen in Australia.”

Not everybody is thrilled by the prospect of the Serbian being allowed back into Australia. Former Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews has previously described such a move as a ‘slap in the face for those in Australia who did the right thing and got vaccinated.’ 

Djokovic is still not vaccinated against COVID-19 and has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t intend on doing so. In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, he explained that he had reservations about what is injected into his body and was cautious about the side effects. The COVID-19 injection has been deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“I respect that everyone has a different way of thinking in relation to my situation and my circumstances. After all, I have never offended anyone or ever tried to be disrespectful in any way. I always tried to show that it is important for everyone to have the right and freedom of choice.” He said. 
“For the choices I made, I knew there would be certain consequences like not going to America, and that is it. For Australia it was a different case, I had the exception, but in the end it did not work out. We know what happened, let’s not go back. This time I am waiting for the permission again. It is a good thing that they have now opened the borders for unvaccinated foreigners travelling to Australia. I have that ban, I hope it will be lifted. As I said, it is not in my hands, I hope the people in the Australian Government will give a positive answer, that is all.”

Djokovic is the most decorated male tennis player in Australian Open history with nine titles to his name. That is three more than his nearest challenges (Roy Emerson and Roger Federer both won the event six times). It was at Melbourne Park where he won his first major title back in 2008. 

“I really want to go there, I am over what happened this year and I just want to play tennis, it is what I do best. Australia has always been the place where I have played my best tennis, the results speak for themselves, so I am always extra motivated to go there. This time even more, so. I am hoping for a positive answer.” He concluded. 

The Australian Open will start on January 16th. It is unknown when a final decision regarding Djokovic’s participation will be made. 

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