Federer’s superlative record at the Swiss Indoors Basel is well known – this is his sixteenth time in the semifinals, and he has only once failed to reach the final, losing to David Nalbandian in 2002. That puts him on a 12-match winning streak in Basel semifinals despite opponents of the calibre of Andy Roddick (2010), Stan Wawrinka (2011) and Daniil Medvedev (2018).
Rarely can Federer have had such a smooth ride to the semifinals, either. He dropped just six games combined against Peter Gojowczyk and Radu Albot, before benefiting from a walkover from Wawrinka. We had barely had time to begin to anticipate a blockbuster all-Swish, all-major champion clash in Friday’s quarterfinals before Wawrinka, sweat barely cooled from a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Frances Tiafoe, announced that he had injured his back in the very last game of the two-hour, 33-minute match against Tiafoe and would not be able to compete against Federer.
Federer at least had plenty of notice, therefore, and will have been able to utilize this day off to its best advantage – not an inconsiderable boon at the age of 38 and at the end of a long season.
The Swiss star is pursuing his fourth title of 2019 after winning the Miami Masters and 500-level events in Dubai in February and Halle in June, and the 103rd of his career (this in a week which has already seen him pass 1,500 total career matches, which he did in the first round against Gojowczyk). Federer has now won his last 22 matches at the Swiss Indoors Basel, a streak running all the way back to a 2013 defeat to Juan Martin del Potro, and while he hasn’t played too many matches recently – just four events and 12 matches in total since Wimbledon – he looks unbelievably comfortably in Basel and not like he needs to shake off any rust whatsoever.
While the Swiss Indoors spectators in Basel were denied an all-Swiss superstar showdown in the quarterfinals, they’ve at least got a promising semifinal to sink their teeth into as Federer faces a young challenger who has beaten him once this season on the big stage already.
Stefanos Tsitsipas had his initial breakthrough in 2018, when he reached the final of the Barcelona Open and Canada Masters and won his maiden title in Stockholm, but it was his victory over Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open which really catapulted him to widespread attention. Tsitsipas went on to win titles in Marseille and Estoril and make the finals of Dubai (finishing runner-up to Federer) and the Madrid Masters, but after losing to Wawrinka in a stellar fourth-round clash at the French Open went through a bit of a subdued patch, going 0-3 at the Canada Masters, Cincinnati Masters and at the US Open, and at one stage losing five matches in a row.
Tsitsipas shook off that poor stretch of form in Beijing, where he defeated a good crop of opponents including Alexander Zverev to reach the final before losing to Dominic Thiem, and went on to score arguably the second biggest victory of his season against Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters, becoming the sixth player to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in the process.
Defeated by Medvedev in the semifinals in Shanghai, Tsitsipas has brought that strong form to Basel as he continues to post very solid results at the end of the season. It’s been hard work, though: He had to put in a lot of effort to get past Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets 6-3, 7-6(6), dropped the first set to Ricardas Berankis in a tie-break before coming back to win 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-3, and had his hands very much full with Filip Krajinovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.
The Serb, a former Paris Masters finalist and an injury-riddled player who can often perform well above his ranking when fit, was a runner-up in Stockholm last week to Denis Shapovalov and also made the semifinals of Metz, so is clearly having a strong indoor season. (He also made the final of Budapest back in May.) Having defeated fifth seed Fabio Fognini in straight sets in the quarterfinals, Krajinovic played a very strong first set against Tsitsipas, dictating with his forehand and pulling off some especially impressive passing shots as he broke the Greek midway through the set to lead 6-3.
Tsitsipas changed tactics in the second set, however, ramping up the aggression on his first serve considerably and sacrificing consistency on delivery for effectiveness. It worked: He only lost three points on serve through the second set, breaking early and riding that advantage to level the match. The decider was hard-fought, with an early exchange of breaks, but when Tsitsipas broke through for the second time, he would not be denied and served out the match to 15 to wrap up a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Federer undoubtedly has the physical advantage on Saturday, thanks to his much lighter schedule since Wimbledon and a lighter workload in Basel, having played two quick matches before receiving a walkover while Tsitsipas came back from a set down twice in three matches (the tenth and 11th time he has done so this season). At this stage of the year, having the physical advantage is considerable; Federer also handled Tsitsipas in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 when they met in Dubai in February, and the conditions in Basel are, if anything, better for the Swiss. In a semifinal lineup in which three of the four are 22 or younger, it should be the 38-year-old Federer who books his place in the final, making it 23 straight wins in Basel and a 13-match winning streak in Swiss Indoors semifinals.
Federer vs Tsitsipas Swiss Indoors Basel tennis is live from Basel on Saturday at 4pm local/3pm BST
Federer vs Tsitsipas tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Federer targets 15th Swiss Indoors Basel final after walkover
Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Roger Federer in the Australian Open semifinals in January, can he do it on the superstar’s home…
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