Roger Federer doesn’t try to play for history. That isn’t his intent. Yet, we who chronicle his career know that whenever he takes the court, a new milestone or marker of his longevity and quality might be on the line.
So it was in Basel, where Federer wasn’t just playing to please his hometown fans (though that is a big deal for him); he was playing for title No. 103.
He was playing for his first ATP Tour title as a 38-year-old.
He was playing for a 10th Basel title.
He was playing for the fourth title of his age 37-38 season.
All those satisfying achievements were secured in Switzerland. Federer also bagged that achievement without the scary or ragged (or both) match which usually crops up at least once in Basel.
There is typically at least one match per Basel tournament — Paradorn Srichaphan, or Juan Martin del Potro, or Philipp Kohlschreiber or Gilles Simon, or David Goffin — which is thorny for Federer. He cruises through most matches, but one match during a week in St. Jakobshalle gives him trouble.
This year, there was no trouble.
Also: Federer beat a top-10 player, Stefanos Tsitsipas, on the path to this title.
Basel isn’t Halle. Basel is where Federer normally has to beat an elite player to bag 500 points. That Tsitsipas semifinal on Saturday truly was a big match. Federer rose to the moment and handled it brilliantly.
Wimbledon matters most. Hardcourt Masters are the other especially big prizes on Federer’s plate each season in this Indian summer of his shimmering career. Yet, it is Basel (like Halle and Dubai) which Federer has to keep winning if he wants the best chance to catch and pass Jimmy Connors’ 109 ATP titles.
Federer’s mastery of Basel not only remains intact; it improved this year.
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