Federer On Basel Memories: 'At Heart, I'm Always Going To Be A Ball Boy'
The Swiss Indoors Basel holds a special place in Roger Federer’s heart for plenty of reasons. It’s where he served as a ball boy for two years, played his first ATP Tour event and faced his first Top 10 opponent. More than 20 years after he first competed in St Jakobshalle Basel, the Swiss is still creating unforgettable memories.
Federer is one match away from his tenth title in Basel after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday, setting up a championship clash with another #NextGenATP player in Alex de Minaur. The top seed has made the final in 13 consecutive appearances at this event and 15 overall.
“I remember playing the qualifying here in 1997 and then my first [main draw] wild card here the next year, playing Andre Agassi,” Federer said. “Who would have thought that I’d go on to have this kind of career? I remember being heartbroken losing my first final here in five sets (to Thomas Enqvist in 2000), but now there’s been another 14 since. I’m just so pleased to have made it to the final again.”
With a 74-9 record in Basel and 23 consecutive wins on centre court, it’s hard to blame Federer for enjoying it here. But it’s not just his track record of success that keeps him coming back each year. The love he receives from the fans in every match provides an extra boost of motivation at the end of a long season.
“Even if I’m up a set and a break, the [crowd is] not just there when I’m down in the score and feel like I need it,” Federer said. “They enjoy when I’m playing good tennis and it pushes me to play even better, keep on trying every point and try to make something happen. That’s what you do with a home court advantage.”
Federer’s childhood memories of this event remain some of his fondest. Video footage of him shaking hands on court with Michael Stich after the 1993 final resurfaced this week and quickly made the rounds on social media. The Swiss still has the medals he received during his time as a ball boy.
“I loved being a ball boy here,” Federer said to Tennis TV. “I was able to see the best players in the world firsthand and see how they would prepare, how they would sweat, how they deal with the pressure. They're good moments for me.”
The positive impact that Federer’s time as a ball boy had on him is something that he tries to pay forward. It’s become an annual tradition for him to have pizza with the ball boys and ball girls in Basel at the end of the tournament, where they also present him with a medal.
“I guess it means I’m still a ball boy, too,” Federer said. “Because at heart, I’m always going to be a ball boy.”