In August 1991, Stefan Edberg was the leader of the classification ATP. The Swede won six tournaments on the circuit, including the US Open, and was named Tennis Player of the Year ahead of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl or Pete Sampras. What Edberg did not know at the time was that a very young Swiss tennis player had him as an idol. A very young Swiss tennis player who, in the following three decades, would become one of the best in the history of the court.
Now, in August 1991, Roger Federer was only 10 years old. With Edberg being a prime example, and the Swede interestingly ending up coaching him for a brief period between 2014 and 2015, it was at that age that he appeared in the opening round of the Grüssenhölzli junior tournament in Pratteln, a suburb of Basel. . The opponent was Reto Schmidli, three years his senior, and the game was completely sideways and uninteresting. In the end, Schmidli quickly won 6-0, 6-0: a result that would become historic.
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This is because, after that summer day more than 30 years ago, Roger Federer has never lost 6-0, 6-0. In fact, in the 1,526 games and almost four thousand sets played until last Friday, the Swiss tennis player only conceded one establish without winning a single game four times, the most recent in the Roland Garros final, in 2008, against Rafa Nadal. Reto Schmidli is forever the only tennis player to beat Federer in two sets without any response. Although nowadays it has little or nothing to do with tennis.
“Honestly, I never really paid much attention to this game in the years since. Then there was a friend who told me that Roger had given an interview to a magazine, in the United States, in which they asked him if he had ever lost 6-0, 6-0. And he replied that it had only happened once, at the Grüssenhölzli tournament in Pratteln, against me.” the Swiss, now 43, told the Marca newspaper. Currently, Reto Schmidli is a policeman in Basel, he never became a professional tennis player and he confesses that, naturally, it was impossible to anticipate what Federer would end up becoming.
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“It didn’t mean much. Although I am proud because, in the end, it was like a brand. Roger was playing his first tournaments, he was 10 years old and I was almost 13. There weren’t enough tennis players his age to have his own category, so he moved up. I had never heard of him. Some people said he had a very good touch, a good hand, but nothing more.” recalled Schmidli, whose path quickly veered from Federer’s.
The tennis player who retired last Friday entered the national tennis center and Reto Schmidli also followed his path -although never at the same pace-. “Later on, I ended up joining the club where Roger had been, the Old Boys, and ended up going to Australia to play for Patrick Rafter’s club. He was in a foster family, he played every day. The goal was to progress and learn English. I came back to Basel, I had a good serve and a good shot, but I think I never had the talent to become a great player. To get there you have to want a lot and what you didn’t want. I really liked playing tennis, but if I had to train two weeks in a row, I would end up getting tired, ”revealed the Swiss, who never got past 40th place in the standings. classification national.
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Reto Schmidli entered university, began studying Sports Psychology but soon gave in to the impact of the police series “Columbo” and signed up for the police force. He continues to play tennis at the local club, participates in 35+ tournaments and has faced Roger Federer only once. “I saw him only once, I went to see an indoor tournament in Basel where he was. He recognized me but we didn’t talk about the game in question. At that moment, he appeared accompanied by his mother. Of course, I didn’t realize that he had just beaten an absolute tennis genius. What I remember is that all his balls were out. It was as if he already had the idea of the tennis he wanted to play, but he did not yet have the means to make it happen. The balls were out and that’s why I won easily. But let’s say that the philosophy of the game was already there, ”he indicated in the interview with the Marca newspaper.
In that August 1991, Schmidli reached the final of the tournament but lost against another young Swiss named Scheidegger, of whom history does not speak of great feats. The following year, Roger Federer, then the national number 2 in his age group, won the tournament. Currently, the court Pratteln’s Grüssenhölzli no longer exists; in its place, in recent years, a gigantic IKEA was born. And Reto Schmidli guarantees that if he could go back in time, he would have done it all differently. “I was just thinking about winning the game, of course I wasn’t thinking about being nice to him. But, if he could go back to that same place, I would have let him win a match for sure,” he joked.