In February 2001, Roger Federer experienced one of the most critical months of his early career. The young Swiss clinched his first ATP title in Milan for a massive boost ahead of the following week’s Davis Cup. Switzerland hosted the USA in Roger’s hometown of Basel.
With no Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi in the American squad, Federer took down Todd Martin in four sets on Friday before stepping on the court in doubles alongside Lorenzo Manta. The Swiss pair delivered the second point for their country thanks to a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 triumph over Jan-Michael Gambill and Justin Gimelstob.
On February 11, a teenager took down Jan-Michael Gambill 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in three hours to send Switzerland into the next round. Thus, Roger became only the seventh player in Davis Cup history with three victories over the USA record-holders in the same tie.
He joined Laurie Doherty (1903), Henri Cochet (1928), Frank Sedgman (1951), Neale Fraser (1959), Nicola Pietrangeli (1961) and Raul Ramirez (1975). Playing with an extra motivation and desire in front of the partisan crowd, Roger fended off three set points at 4-5 in the opener, broke Gambill in the next game and held at love for 7-5 and considerable momentum.
Federer played even better in set number two to forge a massive advantage before losing ground a bit in the third. The home star returned to his best with a break in the fourth set’s third game and controlled the pace to take it 6-2 and push Switzerland into the World Group quarter-final.
Roger Federer defeated the USA almost alone in the 2001 Davis Cup.
“It was an excellent match today. I played on a high level, but not unbelievably, trying to break the rival’s rhythm and make him play badly. My legs were hurting, but I was fighting; it was such a relief when I won that I had to cry.
It was such a nice feeling I had never experienced before. I started to feel left leg problems already in the first set. I was like, ‘What is this now?’ It was probably because of the last week and all the pressure in the previous two matches this weekend.
Still, I never thought it would bother me; I felt it was better in the third and fourth sets. I had muscle pain yesterday, and it’s probably a combination of everything. My overall game was good for the entire weekend; I can’t complain.
I’m serving well and feeling fine from the baseline. Also, I stayed focused despite the tiredness, which was not always the case in the past. The crowd was also behind me, which helped a lot. It’s so hard to explain the feelings that go through your head.
It was a relief and happiness at once; I was so happy for the team and Switzerland to beat such a big country. I’m pleased about my performance all weekend, and I can play better on this surface. It could have something to do with the balls because I can usually hit more winners from the baseline; the balls were pretty heavy.
I played against Jan-Michael at the Hopman Cup and could not fire many more winners from the baseline in these fast indoor conditions; it was nearly impossible. It would be nice to challenge the top guys regularly, and if I keep playing well, I’m going to achieve that,” Roger Federer said.