October 29, 2018
Roger Federer created most of the headlines with his 99th ATP tour title. It was his ninth in Basle, his beloved backyard.
On this occasion, the running total was more remarkable than the performance.
He defeated world number 93 Marius Copil 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 to send 12,000 home fans into raptures.
In truth, however, this historic win owed as much to the Romanian’s implosion as the champion’s ability to find a way when glory wasn’t coming naturally.
We can forgive the world’s favourite player that much. And we can still admire his cool determination to prevail under pressure.
One more success and it will pretty much be mission accomplished for the great man.
That elusive Olympic singles gold medal may still be on his mind, of course.
But 20 Grand Slam titles and 100 in all would be beautifully rounded numbers for Federer to reflect upon in later years.
To reach the latter wouldn’t prompt instant retirement. We can be fairly confident of that.
Roger would surely want to say farewell to Wimbledon in style, even if Tokyo 2020 proves beyond his grasp.
Yes, Wimbledon 2019 could be the most emotional of all for Federer fans, when we finally look back.
It is notoriously hard to predict the future of the tennis genius. And Roger would probably play forever if he could.
Still, best make sure you are there next summer. Just in case Old Father Time comes calling at last.
But we shouldn’t let this particular piece be all about Federer.
Elina Svitolina and Kevin Anderson had just as much reason to celebrate on the same action-packed weekend, with first-time achievements elsewhere.
For Svitolina, a first WTA Finals crown. She is also the first Ukrainian to wear it.
She too had the jitters before finding some kind of rhythm. ‘There were nerves early on,’ the world number seven admitted.
Svitolina was punished, too, before she settled down and began to break Sloane Stephens at will.
The final scoreboard told the story of how momentum shifted. The European’s 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory was no more than she deserved.
And it was for the winner herself to convey her sense of pride.
‘It’s amazing. I am very pleased with my performance this week,’ she purred.
Perhaps Kevin Anderson was even more delighted after winning “the other” men’s tournament in Vienna.
It booked the South African a place in London in a fortnight’s time. A return to the English capital, where he almost won Wimbledon a few months back.
The sense of satisfaction sounds just as immense.
Anderson explained: ‘I can’t quite put into words how it feels to qualify for my first ATP World Tour Finals.
‘The hard work this year isn’t over yet but wow this moment feels great! Looking forward to making more memories in London soon.’
Back to Federer. He wasn’t always as graceful as usual, but at least he made fewer key errors than his opponent.
You wouldn’t have thought it when he was broken in the third game. A series of wayward shots and tentative serves were met with stunned silence. They expect perfection here.
Federer also trailed 0-3 in the second, his service strangely vulnerable once more with the set in its infancy.
Overall Federer showed the greater consistency, though. His misjudgements came at less crucial times.
Ultimately the outsider beat himself. There was the lame forehand drop shot at 3-3 in the tie-break.
And perhaps most tellingly of all, the forehand he netted with Federer at his mercy, when the underdog was 4-2 and 15-0 ahead in the second set.
Copil didn’t win another game. Instead, he challenged two baseline calls at 4-4, stopping in his tracks. He froze on big points.
The challenges proved groundless. Federer made a successful one of his own and promptly roared towards victory.
‘It has been a magic week for me and a dream run,’ said Federer later, evoking memories of those same words after his first comeback Grand Slam win in Australia last year.
The fizz wasn’t quite there this time around. But the bubbly for title number 100 is very much on ice now.