Andre Agassi has told Yahoo Sport that he didn’t expect Roger Federer to become the ultimate all-time great in tennis after their first few meetings on court, as he admitted his first impression of him was that he was ‘a bad Pete Sampras’.
In an exclusive interview at a Lavazza event at Wimbledon, Agassi has revealed the young Federer had big holes in his game as he lost to Agassi in their first three meetings, but he quickly became a force to be reckoned with in the latter half of 2002.
“I beat him the first three times we played. Once in Basel, once at the US Open and the last one was in the finals of Miami,” began Agassi.
“In the first two cases, he was a serve and volley guy…full stop. He just served, volleyed every point and felt that was the way he would win every game. To me he was like Pete Sampras, just not as good.
“Then in Miami, I remember he beat Leyton Hewitt in the semi-finals playing from the back of the court. At the time, I was thinking, this is a mistake for him. Sure, we could all see he had a lot of talent, but for a serve volley guy to try and change his game completely and play from the back of the court was a move I didn’t think would work.
“Then I played him in the final and while I felt like I was controlling the points, he was getting better and better as the match went on. I won the first two sets 6-3 6-3 and then he came back and won the third and the fourth should have been him, but I snuck away at the end to win it.
“I remember thinking after the game; he is a better player from the back of the court and coming in he was already pretty special. You think….God forbid he becomes as good at the back of the court as he coming in because then you will have a pretty amazing player and that is kind of what we have seen from him over the last 15 years.
“Then I played him in the world championships and had two match points in that game and he just edged the deciding tie-break before we met again in the finals of that event and it was like he was a different player. He had beaten me and that seemed to give him the confidence to go to another level. He beat me 6-3 6-0 6-4 in that final and I never beat him again in the six matches I played against him after that.
“In truth, I don’t think I ever got close to beating him again. I had a couple of games against him at the US Open that were close, but he was playing at an incredible level by them and it was hard to stick with him.”
Agassi fears there will be a huge hole on the tennis landscape when Federer calls time on his record breaking career that has included 20 Grand Slam titles, as he reflected that the reigning Wimbledon champion has left a mark on the game that will be impossible to replace.
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“It’s going to tough for tennis when he is gone,” added Agassi. “We will have people saying they can’t believe they missed this amazing person playing tennis at a level no one else has seen.
“It was like people saying they wished they had seen Michael Jackson perform before he was gone. Federer is that guy in our sport. He has left that kind of mark on the game, he has changed it for the better and his legacy will always be there.
“When he does retire, it will be sad for tennis, but it will also be a glorious moment for him. He deserves to feel a freedom he has not had in his life during his career, although it seems he is in no rush to give up just yet.
“I was relieved when my career was over because I had been battling for so long to overcome injuries and continue playing, but Roger still has the hunger and desire and I don’t know where he gets that from after all he has achieved.”
Andre Agassi spoke to Yahoo Sport at a Lavazza event staged at Wimbledon – https://www.lavazza.co.uk/en.html.