When two of the most elegant and beautiful things in the world come together, a special relationship emerges, a different atmosphere like the one breathed in Roland Garros Everytime that Roger Federer has jumped onto the track. The most beautiful city in the world for many has welcomed on 18 occasions (70 wins and 17 losses) the player who elevated tennis to the art category and who is still determined to transfer with a racket all the imaginable beauty around tennis. He managed to win in 2009, after several disappointments, and it does not seem far-fetched that we will not see him there again, although all lovers of this sport mentally repeat themselves as a mantra that in 2021 Roger will return to the Bologna Forest to try a machado.
The Swiss’s history at the Parisian Grand Slam is made up of blinding lights and haunting shadows, a difficult balance between mutual love and the feeling of being largely incompatible by a third party who sneaked into that relationship and monopolized Paris for itself as it is Rafael Nadal. We review the 10 moments that have marked Roger Federer’s career at Roland Garros, both positive and negative, whose impact on his personal and sports career has been key.
1. The expected debut against Patrick Rafter
It was May 25, 1999 when Roger made his presentation in society at the Parisian tournament. It was a young promise that wasted talent, but also an inability to manage it. His good image before Patrick Rafter, number 3 in the world, was a great guarantee to follow him closely in the coming months. “I was very impressed by his natural talent, I knew that if he worked hard he would go far. I could beat him for his lack of mental consistency, but you could see he was a tremendous player,” said Rafter at the end of that game winning in four sets.
2. The first victory of his career in five races
The Swiss had lost the only two games in which he played a fifth set (against Jiri Novak at Wimbledon 1999 and in Davis Cup against Van Garsee that same year. His victory against Michel Kratchvil 8-6 in the fifth sleeve was the clear demonstration of the winning character of this budding genius. He would fall in the round of 16 against Corretja, but his tireless fighting ability against his compatriot was an important moral influence.
3. An epic comeback in 2001 that began to build its legend
Roger had had several disappointments in tight games, so being able to overcome a disadvantage of two sets below, as he did against the Armenian Sargis Sargssian, was a turning point in his maturation process. He did it in the second round of Roland Garros 2001, an edition in which he managed to get into the second week for the first time in his career again. There, in the quarterfinals, he was again stopped by Corretja.
4. First Grand Slam duel with Nadal, in 2005
Few could imagine that the beardless young man who had just turned 19 was going to make Roger’s title seem impossible in Paris. In that first match, Nadal asserted his natural ability on clay and won in four sets, neutralizing Federer’s greatest experience. It was the first of many setbacks Roger had in his private duels with the Spaniard, and came after three editions in which Federer lost in the first round twice (against Arazi, 2002, and Horna, 2003) and in third round against Kuerten (in 2004).
5. The black hammer pylon of his black beast and a severe corrective in the final of 2008
Three finals lost consecutively, three Sundays with the feeling that there was an invincible man in that tournament that would ruin the possibility of reigning in him. These were hard times for Roger, who despite playing very well on clay and getting rid of all his rivals with little suffering, crashed again and again against the Manacor wall. The 6-1 6-3 6-0 that Nadal endorsed in 2008 was a slab for the Swiss.
6. Phoenix bird against Tommy Haas in a memorable match
Two sets to zero for Haas, 4-3 30-40 in favor of the German in the third. Nadal eliminated by Soderling and the feeling that the great, perhaps the only, opportunity to win in Paris was escaping. And the indomitable character of a champion emerged, those intangibles that sift men of legends, to turn the game around and vibrate an entire planet. It is one of the most remembered encounters in Roger’s career, which he skirted the abyss, but was able to escape from it.
7. Reach for paradise on “earth”
The German was not the only difficulty Roger had in making his way to a trophy that seemed to bear his name since Rafa was discharged. In the semifinals, he had to resort to all five sets to beat a huge Del Potro, while managing to deal with the pressure and nerves in the final against Soderling. The whole world of tennis was thrilled with the triumph of a player who deserved that achievement; Nadal himself recognized time after having cried with joy when he saw his friend and rival raising the Musketeers Cup.
8. The perfect tennis against Djokovic in 2011
If many fans of this sport are asked about the game in which they saw higher quality tennis at Roland Garros, there would be few who pointed out this semifinal matchup. The ball speed, intensity and delivery of both contenders was difficult to explain and the Swiss managed with this victory to break the streak of 43 consecutive games won by Novak. An authentic exhibition that led Federer to another final, where he ran into an immeasurable Nadal again. In the retina of all will remain the incredible points that Roger and Novak provided in that duel.
9. Memorable battle against Del Potro in 2012
Once again, the epic took place in Paris at the hands of the Swiss master. Roger was able to turn a very adverse scoreboard, with two sets of advantage for Juan Martín in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros 2012. He uncovered the jar of essences the Helvetian to take the victory and get into a semifinals where he could do little before Djokovic. However, his perseverance and ability to sacrifice in that comeback captivated the French public.
10. The demonstration of his greatness, before Wawrinka in 2019
The return of the prodigal son. This could define what happened in that edition. Roger returned to Paris after four years and three editions absent from Roland Garros, managed to get into the second week without giving up a single set at 37 years old, and excited the entire planet with a memorable victory against his compatriot. There were four sets of intensity, tactical alternatives, search for solutions and a lot of talent from both of them. Roger proved to everyone and himself that he was still a titan on clay. Nadal stopped his tour once again.