Federer Begins Quest For 8th Basel Title
Believe it or not, a player with a record 19 Grand Slam crowns, 94 titles overall and 302 weeks at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings still feels the pressure.
The Swiss Indoors Basel has always been a special tournament for Roger Federer, who has not only won the event seven times, but has made the final in each of his past 10 appearances. Although the Basel native missed his hometown tournament last year after shutting down his 2016 season early due to nagging injuries, he makes a long-awaited homecoming this week – but not without the weight of expectation.
“I hope I can stick around for a little bit. I do feel a lot of pressure, I must admit,” said Federer. “On Tuesday I play against a good first-round opponent in Frances Tiafoe, who is going to have a great career – I hope he’s not going to start his full-blown career right here in Basel, my hometown, I hope he leaves me this one and maybe he can have the next one!”
Tiafoe, who took Federer to five sets in a thrilling first-round match at the US Open this summer, is just one of many landmines in a tricky draw for the Swiss legend. Other seeds at the Swiss Indoors Basel include defending champion Marin Cilic, 2014 finalist David Goffin and two-time champion Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated Federer in both 2012 and 2013 to claim his crowns.
But Federer, like many players, lives by the well-known platitude of focusing on one match at a time, and given the loaded draw in Basel this year, he acknowledges that it is more important than ever to abide by it.
“I’m really hoping to win that first one and then sort of get into the tournament. I have a really tough draw as well if you just look one round ahead with Benoit Paire or Steve Johnson – I usually don’t do that but it’s a tough little section for an ATP 500. It’s a tough start so I don’t know what to expect, personally.
“Thankfully [feeling the pressure] has not been a big issue for me here in Basel because I’ve been in the finals the last 10 times that I have played here, but there’s no guarantee I will do it again this year,” he added. “So that’s why I arrived early, I’ve practised a lot here on the centre court already, I’m starting to feel the ball better and my body is ready to go, so I’m hoping to play a good tournament.”
With the Nitto ATP Finals in London just around the corner following the European indoor swing, Federer admits that already qualifying for his 14th appearance at the prestigious season-ending event relieves some of the pressure of playing in Basel this week.
“My first qualification was back in 2002, so a long, long time ago,” said Federer, who will not only be looking to lift the trophy there for the seventh time, but will also be chasing rival Rafael Nadal for the year-end No. 1 ranking. “I’ve always played very well there and I have a great record: I won it twice in London, twice in Shanghai and twice in Houston, so I’d love to win again. It’s nice to know that you’re already qualified; it settles the nerves a little bit here at the indoor season at the end of the season.
“It would be an amazing finish to the season, but I know other players have the same idea, so we’ll see what happens.”