You will always remember your first time. For Pete Sampras, the "deflowering" actually happened in Indian Wells. In 1988, a 16 year old player, World 893rd, won his first ATP match by saving five match points against Ramesh Krishnan. You know the rest of the story. And for the other kings of the game? Sensational or discrete entry, here are 10 "firsts" of former World number 1.
La Quinta 1986: Andre Agassi and the bogus travel expense
February 1986, a little man (15 years old) came out of nowhere (World 603rd) to find the right trick to touch the check (2502 dollars) meant to reward his first victory on the big tour. The forehand was already strong, the beard was coming, but the young Andre Agassi wasn't a pro just yet. The American stunned the director of the tournament Charlie Pasarell by sending him a bogus travel expense: "I had prepared a detailed list of my imaginary expenses, including an alleged flight in first class from Vegas... If I had the nerve to claim that amount, it is because I do come Vegas. After all, I was introduced to gambling before knowing how to use the potty." A star was born.
Toulouse 1998: Roger Federer and his bank in Switzerland
The Swiss was already a high profile junior World champion in this last day of October 1998 that saw him make his first victim. Curiously, Guillaume Raoux, defeated 6-2 6-2 barely remembers it. Federer has a better memory: "I remember that he was returning from a match in Davis Cup and I took advantage of it." The day of his 800th victory on the tour, the "Master" recounted the emotion he felt by receiving his first prize money with 5 digits: "What to do with? Put it in a bank account in Switzerland, such was my answer." It seems that the account has a few more zeros today.
US Open 1987: Michael Chang, thanks to Mao Zedong!
59 kilos, is it not too light to pass a round in a Grand Slam? Michael Chang gave the answer at 15 years old, defeating Paul McNamee in the first round of the US Open. Two years after winning the little Aces tournament in Tarbes, the lightweight immediately seduced sponsors. He even had an article in the Boston Globe that Bud Collins signed and titled “Thanks Mao Zedong!” We then learned that his grandfather, a former member of the diplomatic corps in China, fled his country during the revolution to go to the US. Without Mao, we would therefore never have seen Ivan Lendl being caught by an underarm serve on Roland Garros Centre court...
South Orange 1976: John McEnroe in silent mode
The grumpiest attacker of tennis history began his career quietly, glued to his baseline. Not even able to watch an umpire in the eye, John McEnroe still had nothing in 1976 that would make his legend thereafter. Not even that famous Egyptian setting game back to the net, only developed in 1978. And he's the only one to remember this very first time in South Orange, against Barry Phillips-Moore.
Barcelona 1998: Marat Safin at « home»
Unforgettable! For the 1998 edition of the French Open, the stars Andre Agassi and Gustavo Kuerten ended up on the roadside, mowed down by an almost unknown Russian meteor. Almost unknown because Safin had already made (some) noise a month before in Spain, with a first success in the pros against Magnus Larsson. Safin "impressed everyone with his strength and perfect timing," according to Alain Deflassieux in French newspaper L'Equipe. We would soon measure the impact of the man in the game and on the fairer sex...
Adelaide 1998: Lleyton Hewitt in ambush
First victory on the tour (On Scott Draper, who would later become his coach) and first ATP title: Lleyton Hewitt made it all in the same week and in his hometown, at 16 years and 10 months old. Rushed and excited. But who was this world 550th who couldn't play in silence? Muffled in the semi-finals by the avalanche of "come on! "Andre Agassi didn't see the phenomenon coming: "I underestimated him. I made the mistake of believing that he would falter.”
Miami 2000: Andy Roddick at full speed!
58 minutes to crush the poor Spaniard Fernando Vicente, particularly drained by an ace at 134 mph. A speeding committed at 17, even before the legal age to drive. And already this American coolness when he was told that Andre Agassi was waiting for him in the next round, "It won't stop me from sleeping at night. It's a dream to play against Agassi. I think that I will play on the centre court again and that it will be packed and I love this.”
Bucharest 2004: Djokovic the «modest»
"Arnaud Clement lost to the very young (17 years old) and modest (World 272nd according to the ATP) Novak Djokovic." On the 15th of September 2004, this is how French newspaper L'Equipe reported Djoko's first perf: with a sentence hardly longer than a tweet. Consequence of an average career in junior, during which he hadn't yet fixed his breathing problems, the Serb was then as unknown than imposing. But soon, the Bucharest tournament will become too small for him to even consider playing it.
Luxemburg 1984: Boris Becker, already a star
Boris Becker has always been "Boom Boom". No anonymity possible with this spectacular player, star the day he opened his record in the Grand Duchy on the 9th of April 1984. Gene Mayer, winner of the German in the second round after saving two match points, even talked about the strongest baseline backhand in the world...
Majorca 2002: a Rafael Nadal (still) in high school and (already) injured
Rafael Nadal Parera. Yes, that's him! The name of his mother was still bonded to that of his father, as proposed by the Iberian custom. And the Spaniard was still in high school when he passed, at 15 years and 10 months, the first round in Mallorca. Victory against Ramon Delgado and defeat two days later against Olivier Rochus. Skipping school only lasted two days. "Now I go back to school. No more competition until the exams are over." Already very serious. And also (already) very injured. Tendonitis in the shoulder, at only 15...