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Rusty Federer fights past ‘great’ Nieminen

Roger Federer needed ten aces and a fighting finish in a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over Finland's Jarkko Nieminen which secured his place in the quarter-finals of the Swiss Indoors on Wednesday.

Rusty Federer fights past 'great' Nieminen
John Togasaki (File)

Out of action for six weeks, the Swiss third seed was tested for the first time by his longtime rival in a series which began in 2002. Since they began in Moscow nine years ago, Federer had won all 11 matches in straight sets.

Fellow 30-year-old Niemimen, a finalist two weeks ago in Stockholm, achieved a personal goal as he finally won a set off the Swiss, taking the second with two breaks of Federer’s serve and despite double-faults on two of four set points.

It took a big effort in the third set for 16-time grand slam winner Federer to re-establish control. But he still needed three match points to end with a cross-court winner after just over 90 minutes.

“I’m really happy to go through, said Federer, the four-time tournament champion and holder. “The second set was really tough and Jarkko played very well.

“He was also great at the end of the third (set). I found it tough to get my rhythm, it’s a result of not playing for six weeks. To stay at your highest level you have to play consistently and I didn’t manage to do that all the time today.”

Federer’s hard-fought victory took him to 26 wins from his last 27 matches in Basel, where his only loss in that period came in the 2009 final to Novak Djokovic.

Federer is without a title since the first week in January and is hoping for a big season finish this week, next week in Paris and at the eight-man season wrapup in London from November 20th.

The field of leading seeds was reduced to Federer and Serbia’s number one Djokovic as second seed Andy Murray withdrew with a right buttock muscle strain.

The world number three was replaced in the draw by Basel-born Marco Chiudinelli. Ironically, his wild card was withdrawn by the tour in order to give it to Murray at late notice last week but he went on to lose to Robin Haase 6-2, 7-6 (9/7).

Murray said he woke up around 3am on Tuesday with pain in his buttock.

“I was struggling to walk,” said Murray. “I had trained twice on Monday and felt fine after that.

“It was a bit better later on Tuesday morning and I went to a pool for some exercises and had a light hit. But this morning (Wednesday) I knew it was still not good enough.

“I don’t know how I did it or what it came from. I’ve never had anything like this before.”

The Scot said his personal physio and doctor suspect the problem might be linked to the sciatic nerve.

Murray said he will travel to Paris on Thursday and take four or five days off with anti-inflammatory treatment in the hope of being fit for the final event of the regular ATP season starting on Monday, the Paris Masters.

Murray’s pull-out was the second of the day after Serb sixth seed Janko Tipsarevic was unable to go on when he was trailing 5-1 in the first set against German Florian Mayer in their first round match.

Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus joined Federer in the last eight as he beat Swiss Michael Lammer 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, taking nearly two and a quarter-hours to go through.

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ROGER FEDERER

‘Thanks for everything, champ’: What Roger Federer means to Switzerland

When the Swiss tennis legend announced his retirement on Thursday, the news elicited an outpouring of emotion that is rare in Switzerland.

'Thanks for everything, champ': What Roger Federer means to Switzerland

Switzerland has few real heroes.

Yes, there was William Tell, but opinions vary about whether he was a real or fictional figure. And even if he was real, it would be difficult for the present generations to get excited about a folk hero who roamed Swiss forests with a crossbow in the 14th century.

But Roger Federer (or simply ‘Roger’ as many in Switzerland call him) is here and now, and to the Swiss people — including those who have never even picked up a tennis racket — he is the real folk hero.

This is clear from the reactions of luminaries and simple fans alike, who took to the social media to share their love, admiration, and respect for the retiring champ.

Practically no other sporting champion in this or other countries has retired to such accolades. So why has Federer’s announcement spark such outbursts of emotion?

And why is he a Swiss hero?

There are as many reasons as there are fans, but these ones come to mind:

National symbol

Because of his numerous and impressive accomplishments on the court, Federer symbolises everything that the Swiss admire the most: hard work ethic and strife for excellence.

The more than 100 titles that he won since he started his professional career in 1998 did not come easy — they required not just talent, but also enormous discipline and perseverance, especially in view of several serious knee injuries that Federer suffered throughout the years.

“Tennis can be a very frustrating sport “, he once said.”There is no way around the hard work. Embrace it. You have to put in the hours because there is always something you can improve. You have to put in a lot of sacrifice and effort for sometimes little reward but you have to know that, if you put in the right effort, the reward will come.”

That’s the kind of fighting talk the Swiss love to hear.

A humble person

Despite his global success and celebrity status that comes with it, by all accounts Federer remained unaffected by his stardom.

And that is another trait that Swiss admire: modesty and humility.

“Reliable, modest, humble, Roger Federer perfectly embodied the image of Switzerland”, according to Nicolas Bideau, president of Presence Suisse think tank.

“He remained modest, with his feet firmly on the ground”, added Defence Minister Viola Amherd, a self-proclaimed Federer fan who attended many of his games.

Federer himself once famously said that “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”.

And that, according to all accounts, he was.

Philanthropist

Federer is a multi-millionaire, but he channels some of the money he earned into worthwhile causes.

His namesake foundation helps children living in poverty “to take control of their future and actively shape it. There is sufficient evidence that proves that education is a prerequisite for reducing poverty, improving preventive healthcare and creating a committed civil society”. 

To that end, “we aim to give children the best start on their educational path through life by establishing and further developing existing early educational services in a sustainable way”.

The Swiss like people who have social consciousness and use some of the fruits of their hard labour for worthy purposes.

Ambassador

Federer willingly stepped up to the plate when tourism to Switzerland petered out during the Covid crisis and was slow to bounce back.

He recruited his American friends, actors Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway, to appear with him in tongue-in-cheek commercials promoting Switzerland’s charms.

“He is an exceptional ambassador for our country”, Amherd said.

All in all, many of the farewell messages posted on social media had a twinge of sadness to them.

As Wimbledon tweeted, “We will so miss the sight of you gracing our courts, but all we can say for now is thank you for the memories and joy you have given to so many”.

And Bideau put it even more succinctly: “Thanks for everything, champ”

READ MORE: Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer announces retirement

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