Roger Federer made the first tennis steps in his hometown, having a chance to serve as a ball boy in Basel in 1993. Four years later, we saw Roger in the qualifying draw. He made the main draw debut in 1998 when he lost to Andre Agassi in straight sets, still at 17.
Just two years later, Roger had the opportunity to fight for the title, losing in the final to Thomas Enqvist in five sets before finishing runner-up to Tim Henman 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 a year later. Federer skipped the home event in 2004 and 2005 during his best seasons on the Tour.
He returned in 2006 as world no. 1 and the favorite to finally lift the trophy in front of his friends and family. A week earlier, Roger claimed the Madrid Masters crown and continued in the same style in Basel. The home favorite defeated Tomas Zib, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and David Ferrer to reach the semis.
He had to come from a 5-3 down in the final set tie break against Paradorn Srichaphan, winning the last four points to set up the final clash with Fernando Gonzalez. The Chilean was world no. 7, heading to Basel as the defending champion and after a good run in Vienna (lost to Ljubicic in the final) and Madrid, where Federer bested him in the title match.
Roger needed an hour and 59 minutes to topple Gonzalez 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 for his first title in Basel and the 44th ATP trophy, already the 11th of that incredible season. The Swiss star hit 14 aces and lost 17 points in 15 service games, saving both break chances to keep the pressure on the other side of the net.
He created 11 opportunities on the return and seized three to seal the deal in straight sets. Federer had more winners and fewer unforced errors. He dominated the shortest and more extended rallies to control the scoreboard and celebrate in the last best-of-five Basel final, also the last on the carpet surface.
Roger settled into a nice rhythm on serve right from the start. He earned a break chance in game six and converted it with a beautiful backhand down the line winner for a 4-2 lead.
Roger Federer claimed his first Basel title in 2006.
A forehand winner sent Federer 5-2 up after just 23 minutes, serving for the set two games later and closing it with an ace in under half an hour.
Fernando could not make a fresh start in set number two, dropping serve in the first game and suffering another break to find himself 3-0 down when Roger forced an error with a deep return. Federer was still in complete control behind the initial shot, opening a 4-0 advantage with a service winner after no deuces or break chances in his games.
Gonzalez saved a set point in game seven with a beautiful drop shot before Federer brought the set home with four winners in game eight for two sets to love lead after just 56 minutes. The Chilean fended off a break chance at the beginning of the third set to stay in touch and got the opportunity to do something more on the return at 2-1.
Roger repelled a break chance with a volley winner but faced another after a forehand error. He erased it with a service winner and brought the game home with two more unreturned serves for 2-2. They fought well in the upcoming games, and Gonzalez stayed on the positive side after saving a break point with a forehand winner at 3-3.
It was Roger’s turn to make damage on the return in game 11, cracking a backhand down the line winner to forge a break chance that Fernando defended with a good serve. The Chilean played against another following Roger’s similar backhand winner.
The Swiss missed an excellent opportunity to move in front, sending an easy forehand long before creating the third break chance. Gonzalez saved it with an unreturned serve and eventually held when Federer’s volley landed long, prevailing in the longest game of the encounter.
Feeling no pressure, Roger held at love in game 12 to set up a tie break and grabbed the lead with a mini-break in the opening point. Gonzalez’s backhand error pushed the Swiss 6-3 up, and he completed the triumph with a service winner to celebrate the first title in the hometown in front of a delightful crowd.