Roger comes of age by bethroning his hero

September 18, 2022

As the Swiss Maestro bids farewell to tennis, we revisit one of his most significant Grand Slam victories

Roger comes of age by bethroning his hero

Federer the man was born in Basel. Federer the legend came of age just shy of his 20th birthday, in his Centre Court debut at the All England Club. A former junior champion and avid serve-and-volleyer, he presented as an obvious heir apparent to his idol and then-reigning champion, Sampras, who was himself in the midst of a 32-match Wimbledon winning streak after winning the last four titles.

"Sometimes it was weird, I look on the other side of the net, I saw him - sometimes I was like, it's just true, kind of that this is happening now, that I'm playing against him," Federer said of the surreal moment after the match. "But then it just goes away, this feeling. You think about your serve, where you're going to go, then it's like playing against maybe some other player, you know. But it's obviously something special for me to play Pete."

Federer came to the coin toss aiming to outduel Sampras with his own weapon - an 85-square inch Wilson Pro Staff closer in ancestry to a wooden racquet than any equipment employed today - and in similar Nike attire. The Swiss teenager was fresh off a maiden major quarterfinal at Roland Garros to earn his first Grand Slam seeding, but he needed five sets to defeat Xavier Malisse in the second round. Sampras, too, struggled after a decisive opener, but regained his dominance to make it to Manic Monday for a 10th straight year.

It was a quintessential generational clash, the likes of which the game hadn't seen in over a decade, when Sampras scored back-to-back wins over Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe en route to the first of his 14 major titles at the 1990 US Open.

Going head-to-head for numerous scrimmages at net, Federer saved a set point in the first-set tiebreaker with a big serve Sampras disputed, and later broke down the American's forehand to move ahead by two sets to one.

Saving break points late in the fifth set with audacious winners - first from the front, later from the back of the court - Federer set the tone in the final game with a vicious backhand return winner. Soon after, he secured the upset with another return winner, this time off the forehand side, to hand Sampras his first five-set defeat at Wimbledon.

The thrill of victory brought Federer to his knees for a now-iconic victory stance. and the pair exited Centre Court together with Sampras reminding his young successor to bow to the Royal Box.

The King was dead, 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5; long live the King.


The transition of power proved less seamless than Federer's initial breakthrough, and he would ultimately exit the tournament in the following round to hometown favorite Tim Henman.

A sophomore slump would follow Federer through the subsequent 2002 season; a low point came at Wimbledon, when he fell in the first round to a young Mario Ancic. The third time would prove lucky for Federer, though, who at 20 played his first major final against Mark Philippoussis. After three sets and two tiebreaks, the Swiss had won Wimbledon; within five years he would surpass Sampras' four consecutive titles and tie Boris Becker with five in 2007 - an Open Era record.

Sometimes it was weird, I look on the other side of the net, I saw him - sometimes I was like, it's just true, kind of that this is happening now, that I'm playing against him.

Though he ended 2003 ranked behind American Andy Roddick, Federer's era had well and truly begun. In 2004 came an emphatic Wimbledon title defense, and a first victory at the Australian Open over a resurgent Marat Safin.

He would claim the No. 1 ranking in February and hold onto it for the next 237 weeks - another record as yet unbroken - and end the season at the US Open, but not before getting past another master of the old guard in New York. –

           Federer records that may never be broken

He won Wimbledon five years in a row from 2003 to 2007, and the US Open five years in a row from 2004 to 2008

By John Berkok

Every day until the final event of his career — the Laver Cup in a week — we’ll highlight one of Roger Federer’s records that may never be broken.

First off, it’s already extremely difficult to successfully defend a Grand Slam title, but what about winning one of them five straight years?

Our first Federer record is that, but times two:w

Winning two different Grand Slams five years in a row each

By winning five consecutive Wimbledons from 2003 to 2007 and five consecutive US Opens from 2004 to 2008, Federer is actually the only player in tennis history, male or female, to win two different Grand Slams five (or more) years in a row each.

Those two runs account for half of his overall major haul of 20.


6 Australian Open titles: 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2018

1 Roland Garros title: 2009

8 Wimbledon titles: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017

5 US Open titles: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

Both of Federer’s five-title streaks at the majors were so close to being six-title streaks, too—as the five-time defending champion at Wimbledon in 2008, he fell to Rafael Nadal in a four-hour, 48-minute epic in the final, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7, and as the five-time defending champion at the US Open in 2009, he was up two sets to one in the final against Juan Martin del Potro but ended up falling to the Argentine in five sets, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, after four hours and six minutes.

While Federer is the only one to do it at two different majors, 11 other players in tennis history have won a specific major five years in a row. Novak Djokovic is close to joining this list—he’s won Wimbledon the last four years in a row (not counting the 2020 tournament, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

PLAYERS TO WIN A MAJOR FIVE YEARS IN A ROW (men and women, all-time):

William Renshaw (GBR): 6 straight Wimbledons [1881-1886]

Richard Sears (USA): 7 straight US Opens [1881-1887]

Laurence Doherty (GBR): 5 straight Wimbledons [1902-1906]

Bill Larned (USA): 5 straight US Opens [1907-1911]

Suzanne Lenglen (FRA): 5 straight Wimbledons [1919-1923]

Bill Tilden (USA): 6 straight US Opens [1920-1925]

Margaret Court (AUS): 7 straight Australian Opens [1960-1966]

Roy Emerson (AUS): 5 straight Australian Opens [1963-1967]

Bjorn Borg (SWE): 5 straight Wimbledons [1976-1980]

Martina Navratilova (USA): 6 straight Wimbledons [1982-1987]

Roger Federer (SUI): 5 straight Wimbledons [2003-2007]

Roger Federer (SUI): 5 straight US Opens [2004-2008]

Rafael Nadal (ESP): 5 straight French Opens [2010-2014]. –

Roger comes of age by bethroning his hero