World’s no.1 Roger Federer celebrated last week his 15th year in the ATP rankings since booking his place in the elite list on September 22, 1997.
The 31-year-old Federer broke into the ATP world rankings following a solid performance at a four-week tennis circuit, which saw him earning his first 12 ATP points by clinching a semifinal appearance at the Switzerland 1 Masters in Bossonnens.
Ironically, it was in that same tournament Federer faced his friend and eventual doubles partner Yves Allegro. Waiting for the winner of Federer-Allegro match was another familiar member of the Swiss team Severin Luthi – the Davis Cup captain for Switzerland.
“I was already qualified for the semi-finals. I was waiting for my opponent, so I was watching the match,” Luthi reflected with ATPWorldTour.com Wednesday. “I can remember on paper, Yves was still the favourite, but we all expected Roger to win. He ended up losing and had something in his eye at the end of the match.
Luthi described the young Federer as a dangerous player who didn’t back out from anybody, whether it’s a fellow upstart or a veteran.
“I would have loved to play him. I only played him once in a club match in doubles,” said Luthi. “It would have been a great thing, because he was upcoming and I was older with a bit more experience. He was very dangerous. He played against all the best guys on the satellites. Winning or losing, it would have been nice to play him either way.
“I was not professional at the time. I was only playing tournaments in Switzerland. I had an apprenticeship and was already working. I didn’t play international tournaments anymore.”
When asked if he expected Federer to eventually won 17 Grand Slam titles and become the best tennis player in history, Luthi simply answered with a big ‘No.’
“I would never have expected the success he had. I thought he was very talented and was playing great, but at that time, it was tough for me to imagine a Swiss would become No. 1 one day. I was too young and didn’t see that many players enough. We had a lot of talented players that never got to a great level. Every few months I saw Roger, he was getting better. But I wasn’t able to say how good he was going to be.”