DelPo first played Basel in 2006, when Fed spotted the young mopey-looking talent and granted him a WC. That year, DelPo lost to Gonzo in the Basel QF. In 2007, DelPo lost to Fed in R2. Then, in 2008, he was stopped in the SF by Nalby.
Fast forward to 2012: DelPo is a champion in Basel!! After six consecutive losses to Fed this year, DelPo defeated Fed in Fed’s hometown tournament, 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(3).
Yes, DelPo, that trophy is for real. And very well-deserved!
I think that’s the happiest trophy photo DelPo’s ever taken (not counting the ’09 USO, because he was crying there).
As a reminder of how important this Basel win is for DelPo, let’s take a quick stroll through DelPo’s last six matches against Fed in 2012:
Part I of DelPo’s Saga:
1. Australian Open QF (4-6 3-6 2-6):
This was a disappointing loss for DelPo, as he lost quite passively in straight sets to Fed. I remember questioning DelPo’s movement and form at the beginning of the year, especially as Fed deftly attacked DelPo’s weaknesses, using dropshots and targeting DelPo’s BH side. At the time, I remember feeling a bit like DelPo was simply happy to be in the second week of a Slam.
2. Rotterdam Final (1-6 4-6):
DelPo played an impressive tournament, with a decisive win over Berdy in the SF. Let’s remember that in early 2012, DelPo was still relatively untested against the bottom half of the top 10 — a win over Berdy was huge. He out-hit Berdy and came out on top, but he lost to Fed in the final. DelPo had 7 BP chances against Fed, but was unable to convert on them. Fed was in fine form during the final and he made quick work of DelPo. Still, Rotterdam was an overall more impressive performance from DelPo than the AO QF.
3. Dubai SF (6-7(5) 6-7(6)):
At this point, DelPo had yet to win a set off Fed. In the Dubai SF, he looked ready to finally take a set off the Maestro, as he earned 4 SPs in the 2nd set TB (he was up 6-2) — only to fade away at the end — he ended up losing that set (and match) 6-8 to Fed. He seemed to have a serious mental hurdle against the best player.
4. Indian Wells QF (3-6 2-6):
I think the IW QF loss ranks ahead of his AO QF loss as the most disappointing one this year. DelPo got rattled by an early Hawk-Eye mishap with ump Mo Lahyani and he never seemed to gain momentum afterward. This was another straight-sets loss, and the question of how DelPo could overcome the top 5 players became an ever-prominent one.
Part II of DelPo’s (Long) Saga:
THEN ROLAND GARROS HAPPENED.
5. Roland Garros QF (6-3 7-6(4) 2-6 0-6 3-6)
After defeating Berdy in R4, DelPo played solid tennis to win his first set off Federer since his comeback. He then held his nerve to win the 2nd set, in a TB no less! Could the moment have come for DelPo to vanquish his demons?
Not this time, as Fed staged a comeback and DelPo’s knee issues partly hindered his ability to stay competitive — DelPo ended up losing in 5 sets, including a 4th set bagel. Still, he made significant progress, by taking two sets off Fed. This match featured Fed’s magnificent “SHUT UP!” moment, after conceding SP to DelPo in the 2nd set.
6. Olympic SF (6-3 6-7(5) 17-19):
I thought the RG match had taken a few days off my life. I had no idea what I was in for when DelPo-Fed faced off again in the Olympic SF. Frankly, I remember not having skyhigh expectations for DelPo at the Olympics, given the way he had lost to Ferru in R4 at Wimbledon just two weeks earlier. Boy, was I wrong.
Fed won and notched his sixth victory over DelPo in 2012, which made the H2H 13-2 in Fed’s favor. But this match was an instance where even the losing player made a statement in the performance he gave, for the 4h26m match. For the first set and a half, DelPo was the better shotmaker on court. His BHs on grass were impressive and the FHs were vying for the spotlight as well. He even threw in some Becker-esque dive volleys to boot! He was broken in the 3rd set, but he broke straight back to keep his hopes alive.
Alas, the ending was a familiar one, with Fed winning in the 3rd set, 19-17. Both players were in tears after the match, but DelPo rebounded nicely to defeat Djokovic for bronze.
Part III: The (Next-to?) Final Act
7. Basel final, 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(3):
Which is what makes the seventh attempt such a celebratory occasion! DelPo and Fed played a splendid match on indoor HCs, and the attacking tennis they played on the quick Basel surface was a treat for the eyes.
DelPo’s FHs were on-song and he even showed a deft touch with his volleys at the net. Also remarkable were his retrieving abilities. There was one point where Fed practically had to hit a smash and a putaway volley, all of which DelPo retrieved, before Fed finally won the point on his third attempt. Fed also hit his share of beautiful IO FHs, and he played this incredibly beautiful half-volley in the 2nd set. I envy everyone who was sitting courtside for this final.
Also, this match featured a body-serve from DelPo, which hit Fed in the groin area. I’m sure it was purely unintentional, but it made for a lighthearted moment and Fed didn’t seem too bothered by it! If you watch what happened on replay, Fed smiles shortly after getting hit, so I hope he wasn’t bothered by it! (GIF courtesy of Hinchadadelpo, as well!)
From now on, DelPo will have to be especially careful when he plays Fed — those “body serves” can be tricky to fend off!
DelPo then updated us on Facebook with a locker-room trophy photo. It’s funny because in his other locker-room trophy photos, DelPo looks grim while Franco and Martiniano are smiling (actually, Martiniano is usually the only one smiling).
In his Basel celebration photo though, DelPo goes solo — he doesn’t look jolly per se, but he has an air of quiet competence, plus his posture is upright! After a long year, I’ll take it! 🙂 Congratulations, DelPo!