Ten years back, same time, I was not too fond of the fact of watching Agassi win the French Open, thereby becoming one of the very few to have won all four Grand Slams in a career. He indeed became a legend, considering he did win an Olympic Gold at the Atlanta Games in 1996. I was a class 10 student, and a pro-Sampras fan didn’t like this fact. A degree of tranquility came when Sampras thrashed Agassi in straight sets to win yet another Wimbledon in 1999.
Sampras managed to win one more before he lost to Roger Federer in the fourth round of the 2001 Wimbledon Championships. That was the first and the only time they both ever met in an ATP tour.
I was in tears, at the same time couldn’t hate Roger, because he was a good friend and a mixed doubles partner of Martina Hingis (who still is my favourite) when the pair won the Hopman’s Cup in early 2001.
I was wondering, Did I see my new hero? Because I heard a lot of praise of Roger from Sampras, this impacted me to like him as well.
Another Swiss halted Sampras in George Bastl in 2002 before winning his last Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows. He retired, although the announcement came late, I knew he wouldn’t come back.
From then, it’s been all Roger; seeing him win the 2003 Wimbledon gave me so much satisfaction that, I felt, it was time the next King of Grass arrived. Defeats to Nadal at Roland Garros made me pinch myself each time, so I did till this very year when Roger won the elusive French Open, he completed the career Grand Slam. He needs one more to be one clear of Pete Sampras, who has 14 with no French Open. An all-time legend – Does anyone doubt? Only cynics, I suppose.
The curse of clay is gone; it’s off from Federer’s back, well and truly grounded at Roland Garros today. Ten years is such a long time, and I am in tears, tears of joy. Never I had a chance to enjoy and rejoice in someone winning the French Open since the glory days of Sergei Bruguera in 1993 and 1994.
On a personal front, there is nothing better than being in Roger’s home country to witness this historic moment in tennis and a historic landmark in his life. And somewhere, a sense of triumph for me as well.