Roger Federer played his first career Grand Slam match at Roland Garros 1999, debuting on the big stage in Paris on May 25. The then 17-year-old Swiss was the youngest player in the draw, already ranked 111th after reaching two ATP quarter- finals and three Challenger semi-finals earlier that year, starting the season inside the top 300!
His opponent in the first round was world No. 3 Australian Patrick Rafter, who played some of his best tennis in those years, winning two US Open titles and claiming the Cincinnati and Canadian Masters 1000 events last summer.
The youngster made the better start, taking the first set 7-5 before Patrick took control, posting a 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 13 minutes for the 10th win. at Roland Garros, reaching the semi-final in Paris two years ago.
The more experienced player did almost everything on the court, made fewer errors and kept his second serve safe to fend off seven of nine break points and increase the pressure on the other side of the court. Federer’s shooting skills were already well known in the tennis world, although he lacked stamina and patience, especially in best five matches like this one, which required more experience.
In addition, the conditions didn’t work in his favor either, as the sun grew stronger as the match progressed, heating up the court and making it faster and more suitable for Rafter’s attacking serve and volleying style.
The Aussie held the ropes of the clash in his hands after the second set and only dropped five games in the next three sets, leaving young Roger unanswered. Patrick stormed out to win the third set 6-0 in 23 minutes and sealed the deal with a service winner in the eighth game of the fourth set to proceed to the second round.
Muller praises Roger Federer
Former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Gilles Muller believes Roger Federer’s contribution to tennis places him above Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. “If we look at the numbers and the Grand Slams, now it’s Rafa.
To be completely honest, for me Roger Federer is above all,” Muller said. “I think that he raised tennis to a higher level, made it more popular, the prize funds are now this big largely because of him.” The 39- year-old also cited Federer’s aesthetic playing style as one of the reasons behind his belief.
“I think the way he played was also spectacular, the most beautiful of all – he made every shot look easy, it was special to watch him,” said Muller.