Article by l’Equipe Magazine, translation by Tennis Buzz:
August 1991. No one suspects that a small page in the history of tennis is being written on the clay court at the Grüssenhölzli club in Pratteln, on the outskirts of Basel. This is the first round of the youth tournament of this small club. Not many people pay attention to the match between Reto Schmidli, a hope of TC Arlesheim, the neighboring village, and little Roger Federer, a kid from the TC Old Boys Basel. The match has little interest as it goes one way; Reto dismantles the kid 6-0, 6-0, double bagel.
Two things are then unknown. The first is that Roger will become one of the greatest players of his era; The second is that never again in his career he will suffer a defeat on this humiliating score. “Honestly I never thought about it,” says Reto Schmidli, 38, sitting on the terrace of a family bistro in Arlesheim. And then a friend told me that Roger had given an interview in a student magazine in the United States, where he was asked if he had already lost 6-0, 6-0. He replied that this had happened to him only once, during this tournament in Pratteln, facing me.”
But Reto Schmidli, now a police officer in Basel, never brags about it. However, the story became known in the small world of Basel tennis. “Sometimes, in tournaments, they ask me: Are you the one who beat Roger 6-0, 6-0?”
Reto does not add. “It did not mean much. Roger played his first tournaments, he was 10 years old and I was 13.” Soon, their roads diverged. “Roger joined the national center, I continued my progress but not at the same pace. Later, I joined Roger’s club, the Old Boys, and then I left to Australia, to the club of Patrick Rafter. I was in foster care, I played every day. The goal was to progress as much as to learn English. I came back to Basel, I had a good serve and a good backhand but I do not think I had the talent to become a great player. For that, it is necessary to want it ardently and it was not my case. I just enjoy playing tennis. My best ranking was Swiss number 40 … I started a sports college and then, as I was a fan of the Columbo series, I passed the exam to enter the police … I still play in my club of Arlesheim, in particular the team matches for over 35 year old.”
Reto is of course Federer’s number one fan. “I saw him once, I was at an indoor tournament where he was.” Inevitably, time covered this original match of the summer of 1991. “He had come with his mother. Of course, I did not know that I had just beat an absolute tennis genius. What I remember is that all his strokes came out. As if he already had the idea of tennis that he wanted to play but did not yet have the means to realize it. His balls came out of the court and that’s why I won easily, but let’s say his game philosophy was already there.”
Reto had reached the final of the tournament. Today, the court on which they had played disappeared, replaced by a furniture store. Only remains a nice souvenir for the Basel police officer.
Photo credit: L’Equipe Magazine