Basel Flashback: Juan Martin del Potro edges Roger Federer

Suffering an early loss to Ivan Ljubicic in 2003, Roger Federer stayed away from his hometown ATP event in Basel until 2006. Roger would reach six straight finals in front of the home crowd by 2011, lifting five trophies and suffering a loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2009 title clash. Seeking the sixth Basel title in 2012, Federer had to work hard in the second round against Thomaz Belluci. He prevailed in three tight sets and raised his level against Benoit Paire and Paul-Henri Mathieu to advance into the ninth Basel final. After four wins over the rivals ranked outside the top-30, Roger faced the first highly-ranked opponent in world no. 8, Juan Martin del Potro.

The Argentine toppled the home favorite 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 to dethrone him and claim the 13th title in a career, the fourth and last of the season. It was Juan Martin’s third victory over Roger in 16 encounters, the first since the ATP Finals 2009. In their previous match, Federer prevailed 19-17 in the third set of the semi-final at the Olympic Games at Wimbledon. The Argentine served revenge in the Swiss’ hometown and joined the list of notable Basel champions. Federer fired 18 aces and faced only two break points. He lost serve once in the opener and did everything right in his service games in sets two and three.

Juan Martin del Potro prevailed over Roger Federer in the 2012 Basel final.

On the other hand, del Potro fended off all five break opportunities and prevailed in the crucial moments to cross the finish line first and celebrate the title. Juan Martin had almost 40 winners and just over 20 unforced errors. At the same time, Federer fired 44 winners and 40 mistakes, unable to tame his strokes more efficiently and defend the crown. Nothing could separate them in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, with del Potro building the crucial advantage in the most extended rallies to lift the trophy. Del Potro won the battle of the backhands in the opener’s fifth game to score a break at 15 and moved 4-2 in front following another backhand mistake from the Swiss.

Serving for the set at 5-4, the Argentine held at 30 thanks to Roger’s backhand mistake, sealing the opener and taking a big step toward the finish line. Juan Martin saved a break point in the second set’s second game with a forehand down the line winner. He created his opportunity at 5-5 that Roger denied with a forehand crosscourt winner to stay alive. The home favorite won the tie break 7-5 to grab the set and gather massive momentum ahead of the decider, led by the partisan crowd. Roger squandered three break chances at 1-1 in the final set before Juan Martin closed the game with an ace in one of the crucial moments of the encounter.

The Swiss earned another break opportunity at 3-3, but it was not to be for him. He sprayed a forehand error and allowed his rival to stay in touch until the tie break. The first mini-break came in the sixth point when Federer’s forehand found the net, and del Potro moved 6-3 in front following a loose backhand from the defending champion. Juan Martin sealed the deal in the next point when Roger sent a backhand wide, beating the Swiss for the first time in three years and lifting the season’s fourth crown.