Tennis returns to Switzerland as the nation’s most prestigious tournament gets underway in Basel. The Swiss Indoors, which was first contested in 1970 has seen some great champions grace its courts, with Ivan Lendl, Vitas Gerulaitis, John McEnroe and Boris Becker amongst those who have lifted the title. More recently, Grand Slam champions such as Novak Djokovic (2008) and Juan Martin del Potro (2012 and 2013) have been crowned at the St Jakobshalle. And there is, of course, a certain local with seven titles to his name.
Unsurprisingly, Roger Federer has once again returned to Basel. The Swiss world #2 has long been making the late-season trip to compete at the St Jakobshalle, typically the only tournament he plays in Switzerland. And he has generally been pretty successful in front of his home fans having won the title seven times, and made a further four finals. He will be hoping to lift the trophy again this year as he looks to hunt down Rafael Nadal and claim the year end #1 ranking for himself. The Spaniard was initially in the draw in Basel but withdrew following his convincing defeat at the hands of Federer in Shanghai with a knee injury.
Joining Federer in Basel is second seed Marin Cilic, who recently entered the world’s top four for the first time in his career. He will be hoping to defend the title he won last year and make certain of his place at the World Tour Finals in London. Should he win his opening round clash with Fernando Verdasco he should be all but uncatchable. Third seed Goffin reached the final in Basel in 2014 and will be hoping for another deep run. He too is in a good position to qualify for London but a first round loss in Shanghai left him with a way left to go to make certain of it. Two-time former champion and world #19 Juan Martin del Potro is the fourth seed in Basel. Fresh from his triumph over Dimitrov in the Stockholm final if he can reclaim the title he last won in 2013 his O2 chances will be greatly improved.
Fifth seeded Jack Sock has had a disappointing end to the season and fallen out of the Top 20 as a result. Early losses at the US Open and in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as questions over his fitness, mean few will view him as a title threat this week. But he is not short of quality and his powerful forehand could fire him into contention. Sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut is making his debut at the tournament, whilst Adrian Mannarino, the seventh seed, has just one match win from his previous trips. Mischa Zverev, the eighth seed, made the semifinals last year and will be eager to back that performance up. With his season coming to a close he will be looking for some morale-boosting wins ahead of his return to Melbourne next year, where he has quarterfinal points to defend.
First round match to watch?
The standout clash in the first round could be between defending champion Marin Cilic and recent Stockholm semifinalist Fernando Verdasco. The Spanish lefty’s forehand is a fearsome weapon, indeed, Verdasco is blessed with power off his groundstrokes and serve. What he often lacks is application. Cilic, in contrast, is amongst the most dedicated players around and rarely gives anything less than his best. He also showed in 2014 in New York and last year in Cincinnati that he can mix it with and beat the best. Verdasco should provide an early test for him as he looks to once again reassert himself over some of the game’s more stellar names.
The last time Roger Federer met Frances Tiafoe it was a five-set thriller under the lights in New York. Backed this time by his home crowd Federer may not experience the same problems again. But Tiafoe has the game to make anyone work and this is far from a foregone conclusion. Expect plenty of winners and some thrilling shot-making when these two take to the court.
Not only is Federer the form player coming into this event, the conditions suit him and he has even more of the crowd’s support than usual. Add that to the happy memories of seven previous triumphs for the Swiss and it looks pretty certain that he will be picking up trophy number eight this week. Cilic and del Potro have the games to seriously trouble Federer when they are at their best, but Federer should be able to get the better of them this week on home turf. Look to Goffin to go deep, however, as he attempts to qualify for the season-ending championships outright for the first time.
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