Federer and Groth met at the US Open in 2014.
Federer and Groth met at the US Open in 2014.

Groth: The day I rattled Roger Federer

It'll be a trivia question forever and a story for the grandkids.

 

The day I took a set off Roger Federer.

 

As John Millman prepares to take on the GOAT at the Australian Open tonight, I kind of know how he feels.

 

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Federer and Groth met at the US Open in 2014.
Federer and Groth met at the US Open in 2014.

Big court, big tournament and an even bigger reputation across the net at the other end.

 

It's the one that everyone remembers, so when I stopped playing tennis, they'd say 'I remember watching you play Federer on centre court at Wimbledon and taking a set'.

2015 Wimbledon, third round.

 

People say 'what was it like?', 'how did you feel going out there?'.

 

I'd played him at the US Open in 2014 - the first time I'd ever gotten to a main draw off my own ranking. I'd beaten Ramos-Vinolas in the first round so it was a good win to kick things off at Flushing Meadows.

 

When I went out on centre court, you get interviewed in the tunnel by Brad Gilbert and then let me tell you - Arthur Ashe Stadium is simply massive. It's bigger than any tennis stadium we have in the world.

 

You're playing Friday night, against a bloke who is arguably the greatest player of all-time.

You walk out first. They make a lot of noise.

 

But when Fed walks out? That noise just goes to the next level. I was lucky enough you could hit up there - but you can't do that at Wimbledon.

 

Sam Groth took a set off Federer at Wimbledon.
Sam Groth took a set off Federer at Wimbledon.

I didn't look or feel nervous to my team. I won the toss and I jogged back to the baseline and got the ball from the ballkid - I like to feed the ball first when I start a warmup. I feed the ball in and it goes sailing past Roger at shoulder height and almost hits the back wall.

 

So as much as I'd prepared my whole life to play a match of that size, I wasn't ready.

 

I was top 100 and had all this confidence, but I wasn't ready. I lost 6-4 6-4 6-4, held myself to great account, and there was a lot of positives.

 

Come 2015, I'd played well in Australia, played well in Davis Cup and was 50 in the world.

 

I'd won a Challenger event in Manchester when I turned up at Wimbledon - and having drawn on the experience of having played him the year before - I finally felt ready.

 

I went into that match and genuinely thought I could win.

 

There's the aura, which I'd really felt off him at the US Open, but come Wimbledon, I saw him as the guy I had a game plan for and I deserved to be there.

 

 

This was a dream - I'd spent so many nights as a kid in Australia staying up all night watching the grasscourt slam, and now I was on that court without even a chance to have a warmup hit.

 

It was a tournament that was just a dream to play, and here I was playing one of the greatest of all time.

 

He'd won seven Wimbledon titles.

 

I'd never played on that court so went out about an hour before the match in my shorts and thongs and had to walk through the members' lunch - some huge sport names - which was one of the most daunting parts of the day.

 

I was nervous, but when I won that third set, it had really only seemed a matter of time.

 

It was moments of my own undoing that got me broken in the first two sets, and I felt genuinely in the match and had him worried.

 

Federer is looking as good as ever in Melbourne.
Federer is looking as good as ever in Melbourne.

I wasn't able to win, but you can prepare as well as you want but until you've been in that situation, you don't know how you're going to feel.

 

The experience the second time around was so different.

 

You could see that he was rattled - he wouldn't have known me very well, other than being the giant Aussie who was going to serve big.

 

I didn't win. It would have been great to go back and win the match, but to take a set off a guy whose record at that tournament is so good - with where I'd come from, as well, playing local footy for a while having stepped away from the sport - that's something I'm pretty proud of.

 

It'll be a dinner party story for many years to come, if nothing else.


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