All the buzz around this week’s exhibition between Sampras and Federer made me dig out the footage from their one and only game on tour, the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2001.
It was a 5 set classic with Federer edging it 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 in his first appearance on Centre Court. At the time it was a big upset - Sampras was seeking his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title, and eighth in nine years - but with hindsight we now know it was one great champion reluctantly passing the baton onto another.
The result has been suggested by some as being the answer to the question, who is the greatest of the two legends? I'm a Federer fan (and my vote's with Roger everytime) but I don’t think this match settles the debate.
Largely because neither man was at their peak. Sampras was in decline – even if he did go onto win the US the following year – and at 19 Federer was not yet the finished article - he lost to Henman in the next round, something which is sadly unimaginable now.
The Classic Match has a nice write up and The Guardian’s match report is worth a read.
And Thanks to Steffanofanderoger you can watch the highlights of the thrilling fifth set here, including Federer fighting hard to hold serve, and then breaking serve to signal an end to an era.