On this day: Roger Federer secures first ATP victory in Toulouse at 17

Roger Federer made a debut in the ATP rankings in September 1997 and claimed the first victory on the ATP level a year later in Toulouse at 17. Roger’s primary goal for that season was to finish as the junior no. 1, and he achieved that after much drama. Also, Federer found time for his professional duties, making an ATP debut in Gstaad after winning the junior Wimbledon crown and competing at Geneva Challenger in August. At the end of September, Roger tried to qualify for the ATP event in Toulouse, ranked 878th, delivering rock-solid tennis on the fast indoor surface, equipped with solid serve, great movement, attacking style and skillful net covering. Federer defeated Marcelo Wowk, Alex Radulescu, and Olivier Delaitre in straight sets to find himself in his second main draw on the ATP Tour, gathering the rhythm and momentum and winning all three tie breaks to enter the main draw.

His first rival was world no. 45 Guillaume Raoux, and Federer presented a strong statement of his talent and abilities, defeating the Frenchman 6-2, 6-2 in an hour to notch his first ATP win on September 30! Throughout the encounter, it was all about the young Swiss, losing just eight points on serve and never facing a break chance to keep the pressure on his rival. Federer grabbed 50% of the return points to take Raoux’s serve four times from eight opportunities and controlled the scoreboard for a milestone triumph. World no. 43 Richard Fromberg was his opponent in the second round, and Federer notched another victory, beating the rival 6-1, 7-6 in an hour and 25 minutes.

Roger Federer scored his first ATP win in Toulouse 1998.

Roger continued where he left in the previous encounter, taking the opening set 6-1 by a storm with two breaks and prevailing in the second to advance into the quarter-final. Although his serve stayed intact, he was not serving as well as against Raoux, fending off all four break chances and taking the tie break 7-5 to find himself in the last eight. Roger’s journey came to its end in the quarter-final when world no. 20 Jan Siemerink toppled him 7-6, 6-2 in 79 minutes. It was the sixth match for Roger in a week, and he struggled with a throbbing thigh injury that did not allow him to show the best tennis, facing ten break chances and losing serve thrice.

Siemerink got broken only once, and he would win the tournament two days later, proving too strong for Roger and all other opponents that week. Federer was rewarded with an immediate bounce in the ATP rankings for this fantastic run, cracking the top-400 after gaining 482 positions in just one week! Until the end of the season, Roger also played in the main draw of the home ATP tournament in Basel, losing to great Andre Agassi in the first round and concentrating on the junior Tour in the year’s closing weeks.