'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

French Open Chief Hoping To Ease COVID-19 Related Restrictions In Coming Weeks

Former world No.4 Guy Forget says he hopes to learn from the controversy caused by the recently cancelled Adria Tour.

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The man in charge of organising this year’s French Open has said he is optimistic that there will be more flexibility in the restrictions placed upon his event as it nears its launch.

 

Guy Forget has told Reuters News Agency that he believes the clay-court major will be nowhere as strict as the US Open, which will take place a couple weeks prior. The US Open is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and players will be subjected to various measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Including regular temperature checks and being limited to how many members of their team they can bring with them. It comes as parts of America reports a rapid rise in cases of the virus.

However, Forget believes that the COVID-19 restrictions set to be implemented in New York will not apply to his tournament because the current situation in his country is not as bad. According to the BBC, more than 29,000 people have died from COVID-19 in France compared to an estimated 132,000 in America.

“Luckily things are a bit more flexible in Europe and in France, especially,” Forget told Reuters. “Hopefully, what we’re going to announce will probably be even more flexible than what we did.”

Despite Forget’s optimism, there is also a lot of caution given recent events that have happened in the sport. The Adria Tour, which was founded by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, was cancelled after an outbreak of the virus among players. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric all tested positive, as well as some coaching staff. The event was criticised for a lack of social distancing with players attending parties, however it all took place in accordance with local government rules. Meanwhile, at the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atalanta Frances Tiafoe withdrew due to testing positive for the virus, but the event continued.

“Maybe some people were overconfident there,” Forget commented on the Adria Tour.
“Luckily no one got hurt really bad but even a few cases is too much and we want to avoid that as much as we can.
“We want to reassure everyone that having people getting ill will be terrible for us. Let’s be really careful, really cautious.”

At present, the French Tennis Federation plans to allow up to 20,000 people to attend the French Open daily with 10,000 on the final day. Equating to roughly 60% of its maximum capacity which is a figure based on ‘health-related information and the projected guidelines.’ Those attending will be required to wear masks whilst walking around the venue but not when sitting courtside.

“We all see soccer on television, it’s wonderful but something is missing without the crowds,” Forget said about the importance of a crowd.
“We are working closely with the administration, the government, to make sure we can provide some crowd while still following very strict security measures.”

The French Open is set to get underway on September 27th. Ash Barty and Rafael Nadal are the defending champions.

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Australian Open Chief Confident Event Will Take Place In January Amid COVID-19 Jump In Region

Craig Tiley has addressed concerns about the Grand Slam following a new outbreak in Victoria.

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The tournament director of the Australian Open has insisted that plans for next year’s tournament are on track despite a spike in COVID-19 cases around Melbourne.

 

Craig Tiley has stated that the Grand Slam will only take place in the city and there are no backup plans to potentially relocate the event in a worst case scenario. The Australian Open is held annually at Melbourne Park and this year attracted a record attendance of 812,174 people. Although there are concerns about the threat posed by COVID-19 with the Victoria State Government reporting another 66 cases of the virus on Friday. Making it the 17th day the daily infection rate has been in double digits. It is possible that the number could be higher with health minister Jenny Mikakos confirming around 10,000 people have refused to be tested with some claiming the virus to be a ‘conspiracy theory.’

According to ABC News Tiley and his team are planning for six scenarios concerning the Australian Open taking place, including the possibility of holding it behind closed doors. Although he is optimistic that the event and others also set to take place next January will go ahead as planned.

“Nothing has changed for us in terms of our planning,” Tiley told AAP.
“The environment around us has changed, and will continue to change, as we’ve seen with the current spike in Victoria.
“We’re optimistic the additional measures currently in place will be successful — and restrictions will continue to be eased over the coming months.”

The Tournament director has also confirmed that there will be little flexibility concerning the staging of next year’s event. Saying it will only take place in Melbourne and during January if it goes ahead. Although he is keeping a close eye on the two Grand Slams that are set to take place later this season.

“The US Open and the French Open are exploring mandatory testing, varying levels of quarantine and limiting entourages,” he said.
“Of course we are looking at all these options, and more, as part of our scenario planning.
“It’s difficult to predict exactly what will need to be in place as guidelines and protocols are changing week by week, and sometimes even day by day.”

This year’s US Open is set to get underway on August 31st, but will be held behind closed doors for the first time. Meanwhile the French Open, which starts only weeks after the New York major, plans to allow up to 20,000 fans to attend daily. Working out to be roughly 60% of its maximum capacity.

The last time the Australian Open didn’t take place was in 1986 due to a change in its hosting date from December to January. Founded in 1905, it is the youngest out of the four grand slam tournaments.

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Patrick Mouratoglou Cast Doubt On US Open Taking Place As Covid-19 Cases Soar

One top health expert has warned American lawmakers that the country could reach 100,000 cases of the virus per day.

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The coach of Serena Williams has said he is unsure ‘if it is a good move’ for the US Open to go ahead amid the ongoing COVID-19 crises.

 

Patrick Mouratoglou told Sky Sports that he believes it is ‘a bit crazy’ for the event to be going ahead as planned. This year’s Grand Slam in New York is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and will be implementing strict measures to deal with the threat of COVID-19. Including regular testing and temperature checks. Players will also be kept essentially in a ‘bubble’ throughout and limited to where they can go. All tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic but the Tour is set to resume in August.

”With what’s happening at the moment in the US, with the number of cases of COVID-19 going higher and higher every day, I don’t think how that can happen,” Mouratoglou told Sky Sports.
“From outside, it looks a bit crazy to try to make it happen. So, I don’t know if it’s a good move.
“I wouldn’t say that if the situation was more stable like it is in Europe, then it’s a different story. But in the US and especially in New York and around New York is… I mean, the number of cases is increasing incredibly. So, I don’t know how reasonable that is to try to make it happen. And I don’t know if last minute the governor of New York will decide to cancel it because of course health first.”

Recently Dr Anthony Fauci, who is a top disease expert, told the United States Senate that he would not be surprised if the country soars to 100,000 cases of the Coronavirus each day. His warning comes as Reuters News Agency reports that there was a rise of more than 47,000 cases on Tuesday. The biggest jump in daily cases since the pandemic started.

As a result of the rise, New York has said that people travelling from 16 different states in America are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they visit the city. According to USA Today this ruling applies to roughly 48% of the entire American population. Due to the uncertain situation, Mouratoglou believes it is still possible the US Open could get cancelled nearer the time.

“I think it’s completely possible that two weeks before he [Andrew Cuomo] decides I mean, considering the situation, this is not reasonable to bring people from all over the world there, mix them together and potentially put them in touch with one of the countries that has the most cases at the moment.” He said.

Some players are yet to clarify their plans for the Grand Slam and if they will be playing. Rafael Nadal, Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep are some of those who have previously expressed their concerns. However, former champion and world No.1 Andy Murray says is it a ‘positive’ move for the event to be going ahead as well as the French Open which will follow shortly after.

“Getting the US Open and the French Open played this year is a good thing, I think. It’s positive, I just don’t like the way the French Open went about scheduling their event,” Murray told the BBC. “But we’re going to have to go back to playing at some stage. The most important thing is that the events are safe.”

The US Open is set to get underway on August 31st.

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