Winning never gets old, not even for Roger Federer. The Swiss 37-year-old was ecstatic on Sunday when he triumphed at the Swiss Indoors Basel for the ninth time, lifting his 99th tour-level trophy. The victory ties a personal record for most titles won at a single event, having also come out victorious in Halle nine times.
“First and foremost for me it’s about winning here. I don’t care about anything else right now,” Federer said. “This win here in Basel means the world to me. It makes me so happy to win in front of my home crowd and make them happy in a way. It was a fantastic week.”
Home, Sweet Home: Roger Shines, Claiming Title No. 99
What perhaps makes it most satisfying is that the Swiss did not arrive in his best form, nor did he sprint on a hurdle-less track in Basel. Federer had lost in the fourth round of the US Open and the semi-finals of the Rolex Shanghai Masters. The top seed then fell down an early break in three of his final four matches in Basel.
But Federer, like he’s done so many times in his career, found a way to win. He now owns 71 match victories at his home tournament, and yet another trophy.
“It’s not always been easy the past few weeks. I’ve played well, but at times also I didn’t play as well, so it’s nice to come back to winning ways. Now we’ll see what happens next,” Federer said. “But obviously getting 99 is a huge, huge number for me. Getting nine here in Basel is crazy. I can’t believe it. It’s a major week for me in terms of all the records, so it’s great.
“Since many years, I don’t know if every title I win might be my last. I don’t know. I’m not saying I’m celebrating like it is my last, maybe I should… Here it’s always emotional, seeing the faces of the ball kids. Seeing myself in their shoes is very touching for me. Getting the standing ovations from the fans touches me a lot as well.”
It certainly helps that this event is where many of Federer’s dreams were born. As a youngster, Federer spent two years as a ball boy in Basel. He remembers the 1994 tournament, won by South African Wayne Ferreira. Every year, the champions gives the ball kids medals. On Sunday, Federer did just that. Twenty four years ago, he was one of those children, just happy to be standing next to one of the best players in the world.
“Walking out for a Basel final was always my dream, or just playing on the centre court was a thrill 21 years ago for the qualies,” Federer said. “So when you sit there and the trophy ceremony is starting and the ball kids walk out, I remember being in their shoes and [it being] me walking out.”
As far as his tennis goes, Federer was surprisingly broken 13 times this week. But he broke his opponents 21 times, winning 35.6 per cent of his return games, which is better than his 23.1 per cent average for the year entering the tournament, according to Infosys ATP Scores & Stats. That improvement might bode well as he gains momentum ahead of the Nitto ATP Finals, to take place at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.
“Maybe I had to win it through good returning, through fighting and all that stuff, so maybe differently than some of my past tournament victories,” Federer said. “But winning is fun, winning gives you confidence and that’s what I’ll need if I want to do well in London and beat the best over there, so I hope that this confidence I gained from here is going to help me there.”
In reflecting on his victory this week, Federer admitted to being nervous at his home tournament. Not only is it his home, but virtually everyone in attendance is there to watch him, hoping he will pull through.
“Of course I have pressure, of course I have nerves, but I try to block it aside and just enjoy it for what it is and moreso think what a privilege it is to be in this position,” said Federer, who celebreated aftwerwards with about 50 family members and friends. “I’ll drive home and sleep in my own bed. It’s going to be great.”