Teenager Roger Federer opens up about junior-days tantrums

On July 2, 2001, the future Wimbledon king Roger Federer took down the seven-time champion Pete Sampras 7-6(7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5 after three hours and 41 minutes! It was the only encounter between the sport’s legends, with both taking care of making it a memorable one. From start to finish, it was a full attacking grass-court tennis that would have hardly be seen on the Wimbledon courts after that. A teenager Federer head to Wimbledon after reaching the first Major quarter-final in Paris, hoping for another great run at the event where he won the junior title in 1998. Despite not being in great form that year, Sampras was always dangerous at Wimbledon, chasing the eighth title and the fifth in a row. It wasn’t to be for him on that day, though, suffering the earliest Wimbledon exit since 1991 and playing only one more match at the beloved event a year later before he retired.

Federer won ten points more than Sampras, repelling nine out of 11 break chances and delivering four breaks from 14 opportunities to cross the finish line and move into the quarters. They hit 174 service winners in 370 points (89 for Roger, 85 for Pete), with 47% of the points not seeing an actual exchange! Also, 325 rallies ended in the shortest range up to four strokes, with the Swiss building a 170-155 lead, doing more damage with the initial forehand or volley to forge the crucial difference. Pete wasted a massive chance at 4-4 in the decider, and Roger moved over the top with a return winner at 6-5 that cemented one of his most dearest career triumphs. After the encounter, Federer also spoke about his junior days, saying he would often lose a temper and throw racquets after loose strokes. 

Roger Federer shared memories about turbulent junior days after a notable win.

“I was quite the opposite of Pete when I was younger, throwing my racquets around like you can’t imagine. I was getting kicked out of the practice sessions non-stop when I was 16. Since maybe this year, I started to relax a bit more on the court. I’m not smashing as many racquets as before, and I grew up a bit, realizing that the racquet throwing didn’t help my game because I was always getting very negative. I used to talk much more on the court; that’s not the case now, and I’m more positive. Also, playing on the Centre Court in front of a packed crowd against Pete Sampras doesn’t make you scream and throw racquets. I think that’s pretty normal. I started playing at the age of three, training football as well in the same period. At like ten or 12 years, I had to decide about switching to one sport alone.

I had more success in tennis and went to the National Tennis Center at 14. It was in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and I’m coming from the German part. For me, it was very tough in the first six months. I wanted to go home as I wasn’t happy. I was crying when I was about to leave home on Sunday. Then I went to the U14 Orange Bowl, came back, started to feel better and win matches. At 16, the Tennis Center changed to the part of Switzerland where they speak both languages. I also decided to quit school because it was halting me from delivering my best tennis. I quit school and just went upwards very quickly, winning a junior tournament and finishing No. 1. Also, the change from juniors to professionals wasn’t that tough,” Roger Federer said.

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