Tennis

Federer bags eighth Basel title in 'gratifying' win over del Potro

Roger Federer displayed some rare flashes of temper as he battled past Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro 6-7(5/7), 6-4, 6-3 for an eighth Swiss Indoors title in front of a partisan Basel crowd yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The local favourite, beaten by Del Potro in consecutive Basel finals in 2012 and 2013, was ragged at times and looked in danger of an unwanted hat-trick, but showed all his fighting qualities to turn the match around.

Fourth seed Del Potro, making a late run to try and qualify for next month's ATP World Tour Finals in London, broke serve in the first game of the decider but wilted as Federer stormed back to the delight of a raucous crowd inside the St Jakobshalle.

World No. 2 Federer charged into a 5-2 lead and while Del Potro delayed the end by holding serve, Federer would not be denied and racked up his 95th career title as del Potro fired a backhand long under pressure.

Said Federer of his battle with del Potro: "I think protecting the lead is, in my opinion, easier than fighting back.

"Fighting back, you sometimes get caught in feeling that making every point is worth two points.

"Then sometimes you play a bit too passive and then you don't play the right way any more because you have your back against the wall.

"It's nice to be able to come back from down in the score. It's a gratifying feeling that you're able to figure something out."

In a frustrating first set for Federer, the 19-time Grand Slam champion smashed his racket into the net at one point, but it was del Potro's turn to lose his cool when he dropped serve at 4-5 in the second as the crowd roared Federer on.

Del Potro paid tribute to the 36-year-old Swiss after his loss, after witnessing a player seven years his senior play "high-level" tennis from start to finish.

"It's unbelievable how well Roger is playing," said del Potro.

"I hope to be in such shape when I'm his age. But I doubt I will be."

In edging past Ivan Lendl's 94, Federer is now alone in second place on the all-time titles list which American great Jimmy Connors leads with 109.

However, his chances of snatching the world No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal before the end of the season are all but over as the Swiss pulled out of next week's Paris Masters citing a back injury.

Federer, who trails Nadal by 1,460 points in the rankings, has taken regular breaks during the season to rest his body and no doubt opted to skip the Paris tournament to prepare for next month's ATP Finals in London.

Del Potro would have moved into the eighth and final qualifying spot for London had he claimed a third Basel title, but now must reach the semi-finals at least in the French capital to make it to the season-ending tournament.

"My body is asking for a break," said Federer.

"Basel takes a lot out of me emotionally. I had five matches in six days. I feel sorry and sad for Paris."

- WIRE SERVICES

TennisRoger FedererRafael Nadal