Roger Federer won an epic SF at Basel against Vasek Pospisil to reach his 3rd final of the year. Let’s take a moment to smile at that sentence. The match was intense from start to finish and lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes. I am not going to do a match report because it would take forever to do it justice. So I’ll just summarize in one paragraph:
Roger quickly broke Vasek in the first set and broke him again when the Canadian was serving to stay in the set. In the second set, it was all going according to plan; Roger broke Vasek to go up 5*-3 but while serving for the match he wavered and got broken. The set went to a tie-break which Roger lost 3-7. He looked frustrated and his body language was not promising. Things went from bad to worse in the third set when he was broken to give Pospisil the lead to 3*-1. I admit that’s when I thought the end was near. And wouldn’t you know it, right then, Roger broke Vasek back to love and then held to remain on serve. He had to save break points on his own serve before getting to 4 all. At 5 all, after wasting three break point chances, Roger finally broke Vasek to go up 6*-5. He then served out the match fairly comfortably, 6-3, 6-7(3-7), 7-5.
The match was special for many reasons:
• With this win he reached his 10th final in Basel and his 8th consecutive one. He is only the second man in ATP history to reach a tournament final 10 times. He tied with Guillermo Vilas who reached 10 finals at Buenos Aires.
• While this is his 3rd final of the year, it is also his 113th final in total. This is a record amongst active players; Rafa is next with 84 finals. Roger only trails Connors (161 finals) and Lendl (146 finals).
• It is his 18th final at the ATP 500 series level which is a new record.
• This was his 40th match win of the year (he’s out of the 30s finally).
• It was his 918th career win out of 1,129 matches
• He is now 19-1 against all opponents born in the 1990s – the 1 being Delbonis at Hamburg this year.
When he got broken in the second set serving for the match and then proceeded to concede the tie-break I, along with the rest of my twitter timeline, was having palpitations, uttering curse words and making whale sounds. He was equally angry with himself too if not more and you could tell he was feeling frustrated. He said, “I was maybe a bit down, a bit tough with myself at the beginning of the third. I think that is also why I got broken. It had nothing to do with actual playing.” We all guessed the same as well. I think he wanted the win so much that when he let it slip away in the second set he was really upset and it took a bit of time to regroup.
The completely partisan Basel crowd echoed our sentiments. There was dead silence when he was broken and volcanic eruptions when he broke back. During the changeovers they sang in support. Those used to the calm, staid crowds and Basel must have been shocked this year whenever Roger was on court. The Maestro has had a tough year and in the midst of the mess with the tournament director, the Basel crowd let it be known that they backed their champion. They have been especially encouraging and enthusiastic and Roger in turn has said it helped to lift him up. As the world was tearing him down, his hometown has fiercely defended one of their own. And last night they lived and died with every stroke of the Maestro’s Wilson racquet.
“Watching is actually worse than playing itself,” said Federer, describing the atmosphere as a “roller-coaster ride.” He added, “It’s almost nice to be part of it even though, in the moment, it could have been easier.” – insert an image here of me shaking my head as I recall that it most definitely was NOT nice to be a part of it during the end of the second and beginning of the third set. No, I am not a masochist Roger, I was dying with every second and it was decidedly not fun ;).
Vasek Pospisil put on a great fight playing his childhood idol in his hometown tournament. He has shown great promise this year and I’m sure will continue to improve rapidly in the near future. He said, “It’s not easy to play someone you basically worshiped growing up. You want to win but you have a great amount of respect. It’s tough to compete if you give too much respect. I was battling with myself a bit. I calmed down a bit in the second set and started playing better. Physically I was very tired but there were no new injuries. Roger is a champion and he came up with some really good shots when he needed them. That made the difference. He played great on the big points.”
Roger will face del Potro in the final in a repeat of last year when Delpo won the title. Delpo said, “It’s always a pleasure for me. I know all the people are waiting for that final and it would be like a rematch for him.” Asked about Federer’s comments this week that he needed to improve, del Potro suggested: “It doesn’t matter what he says — it’s Roger Federer and he is playing in his hometown.”
Given the current form and ranking, Delpo should win, especially considering how tired Roger must be after last night. But the best part of the past week has been seeing Roger come back from being down and fighting those demons inside to eventually will himself to win. He has gained confidence in coming through a string of tough matches. If he wins Basel, it will be his 6th Basel title and as a bonus, he will lock his place for the World Tour Finals so there is no question of motivation. I think those are reasons enough to have hopes for today despite all evidence to the contrary. Like the Basel crowd let’s stand up and yell “Roger! Roger!” 😀 Good luck today Maestro!