Hello one and all! I'm back from Basel and pleased to say that I saw Federer take down Nadal to win his 7th title in his hometown. With that alone you can't really ask for much more but Basel also provided my first live SABR which sends the crowd into delirium, decent weather, good food and plenty of other things to see and do.
I won't go into a massive amount of detail like some of my usual match reports as a.) there's no point now its done and dusted and b.) I wasn't taking notes so I've forgotten plenty of stuff 🙂 . Anyway without further ado…
Day 1 – Federer vs. Kohlschreiber
I arrived in Basel on Wednesday evening just in time to see Nadal vs. Dimitrov on TV, another 3 setter for Nadal which Dimitrov could easily have won. So Thursday was my first day at the St. Jakobshalle stadium and just like in Halle Kohlschreiber put up some stern resistance. I expected an easy match indoors but it was anything but as Kohlschreiber played the better tennis in sets 2 & 3. Federer was far from his best too and like I said in the comments on my last post you could see tape on his back when serving. It definitely wasn't the sort of match that filled me with confidence for the next few days but a win is a win and thankfully Kohli played a sloppy service game at 4-4 in the third which made the difference; very much the story of their H2H and maybe even their comparitive careers.
And just a side note the image above was taken by @FedererGal who I met up with at the venue after she made the trip with her husband from Holland. It's always cool to put a face to the name and meet other Fed fans from the blog so hopefully the ATP do finally approve the peRFect Tennis Masters 1000 held on grass that we can all attend for free 😆
Day 2 – Federer vs. Goffin
Seeing this match live was somewhat unexpected as we only had tickets for Thursday and Sunday upon arriving in Basel but decided to see if we could snap up any on the day – and luckily landed 2 tickets from the box office and saw all 4 quarter finals.
This was a crazily long day with every match going three sets and Roger not starting until around 10pm; fortunately we planned ahead so bought in food to prepare in the apartment as finding anything other than a dirty kebab or McDonalds at midnight would have been impossible.
After not looking great against Kohli I wasn't sure what to expect from Fed as Goffin is a tricky customer but the Swiss played some great stuff in set 1; set 2 was a bit of a letdown but he buckled down in the third to close it out and setup a semi final encounter with Sock who defeated Donald Young earlier in they day. Nadal again went three against Cilic but he was somehow finding a way through.
Day 3 – Federer vs. Sock
This was my SRF TV match of the trip and turned out to be a smart choice as the Semi Finals weren't the best matches of the week. Gasquet vs. Nadal had some high quality moments but same old story for Reeshard as he didn't make the most of being up a break in both sets. Gasquet was easily in the best form out of all the guys I'd seen play but Nadal's extra effort to make one more ball paid off and got him through in 2 tight sets.
The second semi was then Federer vs. Sock and it was fairly routine. Federer didn't really have to push himself in this one but again he didn't look in great form missing a lot of running forehands and not serving that well. Sock doesn't have the all court game to really bother Federer though and you can tell Roger knows that the American's game will leak errors if he applies enough pressure.
Day 4 – Federer vs. Nadal
So the match tournament organisers, the Basel crowd and most tennis fans wanted when the draw came out was set. Needless to say I was excited but also a tad nervous as Nadal, although dropping sets for fun, was finding ways to win matches like he always does.
We arrived at the Stadium at about 12.00 to catch some of the doubles and it was already pretty packed. The trams were overflowing and the place definitely had a buzz about it as even the part time fans and corporate bods know there's a lot on the line when these two meet.
In terms of the doubles final, it was just a warm up to the main event and although the venue was packed most people were out in the tribune areas eating and drinking which was the wise choice I think. In fact if I'm honest I nearly fell asleep in the doubles and was thankful it was won by Soares / Peya in straight sets. The guys take so long between points and whilst there's clearly a strategy to doubles I just find it dull – it really is just guys who aren't good enough to compete in the singles. Harsh but true 🙂
After a quick ice cream trip to the Movenpick stall it was 2.15 and time to settle in for the final. The seats filled up at lightspeed and by 2.20 there was barely an empty one left. Like the first 2 days I was again seated behind the baseline towards the corner which is my favourite angle to watch. I won't go into the build up as it's just standard fare for all ATP tournaments but Fed's reception was mega and it must be a huge boost, plus some added pressure to know that 99.99% of the stadium is on his side.
The warm up was certainly an interesting one as both guys hit the ball big. Nadal is known for ripping forehands in the warm up anyway but Fed wasn't just floating balls in like you often see, it was aggressive hitting from both.
Into the match then and my fears that Fed wasn't playing well this week were soon dispelled as he started the match peRFectly, hitting his running forehand well, taking it early and hitting a lot of backhand drives into the Nadal backhand which allowed him to keep himself on the front foot in the rallies. Nadal was of course playing in his usual swashbuckling style but Fed was in virtually every return game and broke the Spaniard twice en route to dominating the first set 6-3.
Set 2 again saw Federer execute his plans down to a tee and it looked as though he was going to cruise over the line but just like countless Fedal matches, if you don't make the most of some opportunities, Rafa will make you pay and he did just that. Digging himself out of countless holes on serve before breaking at 5-5 and serving out the set 7-5. Horrible set to lose for Federer and for the fans too as it looked like a done deal up until 5-5. Ultimately Nadal just plays the break points to his tried and tested method and if you are going to be uber critical Fed was conservative on the break point chance he had which I think was at 4-4. Failing to go big on his forehands when he had the chance to rip them.
Heading into the decider and it felt like a coinflip due to the history between the two but Fed kicked things off with a statement making hold. Like the first 2 sets it was again the Swiss looking the likely player to break but Nadal was holding firm. Roger then had to escape trouble on his own on serve but did so calmly which was great to see.
Eventually Roger got the all important break, much to delight of the crowd and it was down to him to serve it out. No changeover just straight into it which probably helped and he played a really good game, even overcoming a serve being called out and overruled good by Lahyani that Nadal dumped into the net on match point. There was no need to worry though as Fed fired a serve out wide on the second match point which Nadal sent long and the crowd erupted. Come on!
Then followed a typically Swiss trophy presentation with no pandering to corporate nobodies or thanking every man and his dog for making the tournament possible. It was straight to the trophies, a few short words from the players, including a weird comment from Fed to Nadal along the lines of “it's like you won the tournament” sounded a bit disingenuous but it probably just came out slightly wrong 😆 and then the handing out of medals to the ball boys & girls which is a nice touch.
Thoughts on Basel
With the tennis bit out of the way I'll talk a little bit about the city and the stadium. First up is the venue, it's the first time I've seen the St. Jakobshalle and it's a great place for tennis. Externally it's a bit of a 1960's looking monstrosity but inside it's well laid out and you feel really close to the action. The acoustics are good and when the crowd get going for Fed it provided a great atmosphere especially with the Mexican Waves giving it that carnival like feel. The tram stop is right outside too so it's very easy to get to from the centre of town.
In terms of the offerings in the tribune area they were pretty limited but enough to keep most people happy. Corona obviously has an exlcusivity deal so that's the only beer you'll find which was a bit disappointing as a local beer would have been more appealing. Food wise it was just par for the course with pizza's, sausages, ragout, noodles and other snacks available. Pricey of course but looked alright, we didn't eat in the stadium though opting to find a decent lunch spot prior to play and taking in a few snacks to hold out until the matches were done. That's a better way of doing things as you'll get better quality, potentially save money and there's always a beer pretzel or ice cream to keep you going should you need it.
Onto the city itself and I liked it, fairly clean, not massively crowded and plenty places to eat & drink. There's a decent market in the main square selling local produce, a good offering of shops from independents to the usual high street fodder and plenty supermarkets if you're staying in an apartment and need some essentials.
It's very easy to get around too as the city operates a tram system which as you'd expect runs on time and just works. Tourists get a mobility card for the duration of their stay as well which means free trams and buses throughout the city. No need for a rental car really unless you're planning a trip out to the mountains for a day but a bike could be useful if you want to avoid public transport. It's not a massive city either so you could comfortably cycle round the main parts in a day.
Few places I'd recommend checking out if any of you attend next years tournament:
- Pffiferling Deli – good lunch spot, quite expensive around 30CHF per head for lunch + drink but really well made, a nice interior and good quality ingredients.
- Restuarant Pinar – Turkish restaurant, good portion sizes and well priced.
- Tibits – a help yourself type place where you pay for the weight of your plate, think it's a chain which I normally don't like but this was good.
- Fischerstube – home of Ueli Beer which is Basel's local beer and tastes great. Food here looked quite good too.
- Consum – good place for drinks / lunch right next to the River Rhine.
- Basel Munster – nice building and you can cross the river on a boat for a 1.60CHF which makes a change from on foot or via tram.
I didn't do any of the typical touristy / sightseeing stuff but Marktplatz & Barfüsserplatz have good markets, old style buildings and plenty of bars with outside seating for people watching 😉 which IMO is far more fun than having to mingle with other tourists opting to take pictures of pretty much anything they point their camera at. If you walk along the river there's some nice buildings as well to check out like Basel Munster I mentioned above. Architecturally there's a lot of modern buildings on the outskirts made from pure concrete so it's not the best city from that standpoint but there are plenty of older traditional ones dotted around especially in the centre to take a look at.
Next Up the Paris Masters
Anyway onto Paris with Basel in the bag there's not much rest for Fed as the action in Bercy is already underway, I won't do a usual draw post as Roger plays his first match tomorrow against Andreas Seppi. You can see his projected opponents below:
- 1st Round: Bye
- 2nd Round: Andreas Seppi
- 3rd Round: John Isner
- Quarter Final: David Ferrer
- Semi Final: Andy Murray
- Final: Novak Djokovic
I've not been able to really read much press due to a poor Wi-Fi connection but I saw Roger's comment that he felt tired vs. Kohlschreiber and Sock which meant he wasn't sure about Paris but now he's raring to go. He should be pretty confident going into this now after taking down Basel but it's a slower surface which reduces his chances somewhat. I guess we'll take it one match at a time but he looks primed for a run to the latter stages.
Hope you enjoyed this quick recap and if you have any questions about Basel, be it the tennis or the city itself feel free to ask in the comments.