Fourteen-time Grand Slam winner Pete Sampras, whose reign at Wimbledon was interrupted by Roger Federer in 2001, paid tribute to Switzerland in a video posted on social media on Thursday.
Federer, winner of 20 Grand Slam titles and one of the best players in history, will play his farewell doubles match with rival and friend Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup in London on Friday before retiring.
The opportunity for Sampras to recall their unique confrontation at Wimbledon won by the young and talented Federer who was then only 19 years old.
“I don’t know where to start so I’ll start from the very beginning,” Sampras first said addressing Federer directly. “When we first met, you were only 19, you were a promising player but already we were talking a lot about you. We fought a big battle on center court at Wimbledon and you had beaten in five sets”, recalled Sampras, who had won the previous four titles on the English turf to bring his record to seven. “I remember leaving the court with the feeling of having made my match”.
Sampras would then win a final Grand Slam title, at the US Open in 2002, before retiring. Over the next two decades, he saw Federer’s career soar.
“Little did I know that twenty years later you would have won twenty Majors, that you would be number one for years, that you would dominate our sport – in fact, that you would have done it all,” Sampras praised, called Federer a “really special player”.
Sampras praised Federer’s dedication, saying his famously fluid game belies the hard work that produced it. “We will miss you in our game,” Sampras said.