When Roger Thought He'd Never Win Basel

Swiss going for his ninth title at his hometown tournament this week

Roger Federer thought his days of competing for a Swiss Indoors Basel title were done. It was 2001, 17 years and eight Basel titles ago, and Federer had just lost to Brit Tim Henman in his second hometown final.

The Swiss thought the lifelong dream that he'd had since he was a ball boy for two years at the tournament – winning the Basel title – would never happen.

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“I was never going to win, period. That was it. Because I thought I had two chances, I wasted both opportunities... You don't get many more opportunities,” Federer said.

He's had a few more chances since then. Federer will go for his ninth Swiss Indoors Basel title this week. The 37-year-old is 66-9 at the ATP World Tour 500-level event, has reached the final in 11 straight appearances (2006-15, 2017) – and 13 overall. And, since his loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the 2013 final, Federer has won 15 consecutive matches in his hometown.

Watch: Federer: 'I Have So Many Memories'

“I had to wait for it,” Federer said. “It was hard for me. Then in 2006, finally, it all worked out, I got my first Basel and then everything changed forever. I knew I could do this result again. And I was able to defend and to handle pressure and all the expectations that surrounds this tournament for me. It's been a wonderful tournament for me, especially doing it from being a ball boy here for two years, is a great feeling.”

The trip home comes with a unique set of pressures for Federer. He's thrilled to be in familiar territory, but he's also eager to make his stay last.

“I enjoy myself, No. 1 here in Basel, because it's where I grew up, I have so many memories... A lot of friends and people I know here from in the organisation... come to watch. So of course I love being in the area,” Federer said. “With that, comes pressure. I want to do well, I want to stay here as long as possible. Because in tennis, when you lose you leave... And just because it's gone well in previous years doesn't mean automatically it's going to happen again.

“But I'm excited, I've been there before, I've done it many times, playing under pressure here in Basel.”

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Some of the pressure on Federer in Basel has been relieved because he's already booked his spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held 11-18 November at The O2 in London. He will make his 16th visit to the season finale (2002-15, 2017) and go for his seventh title (2003-04, 2006-07, 2010-11).

“It's always good having qualified way before the Race heats up, after the US Open. Because [if you haven't], then you're really thinking about rankings, you're thinking about the struggle, having to qualify, having to produce results under pressure, not that we're not used to that, but it's just different, because normally we can just go play tennis,” Federer said.

“So for me... I can go out there, enjoy myself, play my best, enjoy the indoor tour. I love the indoor tournaments, I usually always play very well in those. Of course it's a huge goal of mine, the London [Nitto ATP Finals]. It's one of those events you want to compete in, the ones you want to win.”

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