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Federer back to winning ways in Basel

Roger Federer returned to winning mode ten months after his last title as the home tennis hero thrashed Japanese wild card Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-3 to win a fifth Swiss Indoors title on Sunday.

The third seed lost just one point in a dominating first set which lasted 28 minutes. The 21-year-old Nishikori found some range in the second set but had no hopes against an on-form Federer at the event where he once served as a ballboy.

“It was a perfect match for me. Now I have big hopes for Paris and London,” said Federer, whose eyes moistened as he held the trophy to a standing ovation from “his” crowd after ending his longest title drought since 2002.

“It’s great to win at home again,” said Federer. “Kei put up a good fight. I’ve known ever since I hit with him as a teenager that he could have a good future.

“He’s had some injuries but he’s playing well now. It was a good match and I’m very happy for the win.”

The 30-year-old Federer now stands 29-1 at the event over the past six years after playing six straight finals. The tournament is the only non-grand slam tournament where he has won more than 40 matches.

Federer improved to 54-12 this season as he competed in his first final since losing to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in June.

The seed, who hit with Nishikori several seasons ago in Miami and had the Asian youngster marked for a promising future, was playing in his 98th ATP final, standing 68-30 and 2-2 in 2011.

Federer nailed five aces and broke on four of 13 chances against Nishikori, who was playing his second final of the season after Houston in the spring. The Swiss saved the only break point he faced.

Federer allowed Nishkori one game in the opening set as the newcomer put up a fight to no avail.

The veteran claimed the opener on a Nishikori double-fault and then broke for 4-2 in the second after producing his third love game.  Federer concluded with a break, setting up a match point with a pass after drawing Nishikori into the net.

“I tried to fight, but Roger would not let me into the match,” said Nishikori. “I’m very glad to have played the final. It’s always been one of my goals to play Roger.”

The challenger goes to Paris with a special exempt entry after reaching the Basel semi-finals.

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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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