A record five titles and five more runner-up trophies make us conclude that it was a cakewalk for Roger Federer, Basel’s own good old boy, in his hometown. But what this quick glimpse at the stats don’t say is how gargantuan the Basel-born tennis legend’s efforts were to win a title in front of his townsfolk.
Yes, before the ball boy at Basel got himself into the record books, he had to battle the infamous ‘Basel Curse’ for eight long years! Federer has a unique connection with the Swiss Indoors.
The event is held in Basel, close to his ancestral home. His mom, Lynette, used to be part of the organising team. Federer’s first appearance there as a player was In 1998, the year he turned pro, almost four year after his stint there as a ball boy.
A 16-year-old Federer had to face none other than Andre Agassi in the first round. There weren’t any surprises, and the blossoming Swiss player managed to win only 5 games against the American, as the latter toppled him 6-3, 6-2.
The following year, he lost to Britain’s Tim Henman in the third round; in 2000, he reached the final of the event for the first time aged 18, only to lose to Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist in an agonising match - 2-6, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1, 1-6.
The loss was heartbreaking for young Federer for he came that close to winning a title in his hometown. Year 2001 proved a quantum leap for young Federer. It was that year he ended 7-time champion Pete Sampras’ long reign at Wimbledon, to the disbelief of all.
Federer’s name and fame went beyond the borders of Switzerland. Improved in game and attitude, a confident Federer once again made it to the finals, this time, once again, his opponent was Tim Henman. Federer’s hopes suffered another blow when Henman humbled him in straight sets -- 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.