Thanks a lot to Tony for sharing his story and pictures!
It was another memorable evening for me at the BNP Paribas Open. Last night’s Roger Federer practice is probably my second favorite encounter with him since I started attending the tournament in 2008 — my favorite being the time in 2014 when he walked over after practice and sign my RF hat.
Things started off a little crazy. Fans camped out for hours on Practice Court 1 after they saw Federer’s name on the morning’s practice schedule for a 7 pm session. I arrived there about an hour and a half before, thinking I would get a seat, but the bleachers surrounding the court were full, and no one was budging from what was prime real estate in the Coachella Valley at that moment. So, I decided to wait along the fence of the adjacent practice lawn where the players pass on their way to practice. During this time, I tweeted my frustration to the tournament, saying that they should move Roger to an empty stadium court so everyone can see. 7 pm comes around and no Roger. 7:15 pm comes around, and still no Roger. Then there was a rumbling like you hear during a distant desert earthquake. Apparently, word had spread that Roger was actually on Stadium Court 3, so that rumbling turned into a stampede of people leaving the bleachers en masse like a heard of wild animals. When I realized what was happening, I took off running with the pack like one of those girls you see in a Beatles documentary from the 1960s. And here is what I got: prime second row seating and these photos of the greatest tennis player of all time! Enjoy!
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
With his 5-set victory in the final of the Australian Open over Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer claims an 18th Slam title, his first since 2012.
In celebration of Federer’s latest achievement, NIKELAB introduces its first signature performance collection. The NikeCourt x RF Men’s Tennis Polo and Short is available at nike.com in Gym Red, Binary Blue and Dark Obsidian/Black.
Who would have thought we would see these two immense champions face each other in a Grand Slam final again?
Rafael Nadal’s road to the final
I never dreamed to be back in the final of the Australian Open. It’s a very special thing for both of us to be playing again in a major final. Neither of us probably thought we would be here again.
|R1||Florian Mayer||6-3 6-4 6-4|
|R2||Marcos Baghdatis||6-3 6-1 6-3|
|R3||Alexander Zverev (24)||4-6 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-2|
|R4||Gaël Monfils (6)||6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4|
|QF||Milos Raonic (3)||6-4 7-6 6-4|
|SF||Grigor Dimitrov (15)||6-3 5-7 7-6 6-7 6-4|
Roger Federer’s road to the final
I’ll leave it all out here in Australia and if I can’t walk for another five months, that’s OK.
|R1||Jürgen Melzer||7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2|
|R2||Noah Rubin||7-5 6-3 7-6|
|R3||Tomas Berdych (10)||6-2 6-4 6-4|
|R4||Kei Nishikori (5)||7-6 4-6 1-6|
|QF||Mischa Zverev||6-1 7-5 6-2|
|SF||Stan Wawrinka (4)||7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3|
17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, who faces Stan Wawrinka in the semifinal of the Australian Open, wears the NIKECOURT RF ADVANTAGE polo and the NikeCourt 7″ Flex Tennis Short:
Follow our Australian Open coverage.
Enjoy a few pictures of Roger Federer practicing ahead of his fourth-round match against Kei Nishikori on Sunday. He will face fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka on Thursday for a place in the Australian Open final.
Roger Federer just hit up on the outside courts. Standing a couple of meters away I watched in awe. This guy is just amazing.
— Brian Peel (@Brian_Peel) January 22, 2017