To Roger Federer, as it is with most champions, the memories of his early years in tennis, days when he would struggle to find an autograph request, are the most treasured.
And it is one such memory from his fledgling years in the game that he shared in an interview with Swiss-German daily Aargauer Zeitung.
Clearly lost: Roger Federer on his Basel clash against Andre Agassi
The 20-time Grand Slam champion recalled making the main draw at Basel, his home ATP event, way back in 1998.
Federer revealed that it was eight-time Major championship winner Andre Agassi who he had to face in his first game after making the tournament draw.
While the memory of the game, which he “clearly lost,” has stayed with him, it’s the recollections from the year before, when he played the qualifying rounds, which he savors as much, if not more.
“That (his first match in the Basel main draw) was against Andre Agassi, that was an incredible story for me. I was almost a child. I clearly lost,” Federer said.
Just 16 at the time, he was filled with a sense of anticipation and nervous anxiety as he got off the court after playing his qualifiers.
He said that as he got closer to his dream of reaching the main draw, he thought to himself that it could be the beginning of his career.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“When I was 16 I ran out of there and thought, ‘Hmm, is this the beginning of my career? There was a lot of anticipation and nervousness,” the 39-year-old Swiss said.
Federer holds a career head-to-head lead of 8-3 over Agassi
The match in question, indeed, turned out to be a rout for Federer as he went down 3-6, 2-6.
While that match may not have gone his way, the Swiss had his own back later and enjoyed a remarkable run of success against the American ace.
He holds a commanding 8-3 lead over Agassi in eleven career head-to-head meetings.
While the American won the first three of their head-to-head meetings, in 1998, 2001, and 2002, the Swiss has emerged victorious in all their matches since then.