Jimmy Connors has won 109 titles in his terrific career. Next on the list is the incomparable Roger Federer, who by winning the 2018 Swiss indoors ATP 500 tournament with a victory over Romanian Marius Copil, won the 99th tournament of his career.
Let’s take a brief look at the difficult road Roger had to traverse to reach the 99th.
Roger started 2018 superbly by winning the Australian Open. He then won Rotterdam ATP 500 which was his 20th ATP 500 title.
However his high level of play thereafter dipped. He lost the Indian Wells Masters to DelPo despite having three match points on his own serve before losing to Thanasi Kokkinasis at Miami.
Roger rallied to win the Stuttgart Open 2018 which was his 98th tournament win. After that he was finding it difficult to add to his impressive tally.
More worryingly he was missing winning opportunities, which was most unlike the great champion.
At Halle he lost to Borna Coric which was surprising considering Roger was on a 20-match winning streak on grass which was not Coric’s favourite surface and he had won Halle nine times earlier.
At Wimbledon he lost to the giant South African Kevin Anderson in the quarter finals, after squandering a match point. Once again, unlike the Roger we know.
At Cincinnati, Roger was outclassed by Novak Djokovic, and at the US Open he surprisingly lost to the unheralded Aussie John Millman. He had only 49 per cent of his first serves in that match and it is considered one of the worst serving matches of his illustrious career.
At the Shanghai Masters he had the chance to make the final but was comprehensively defeated by Coric in straight sets in the semi finals.
At this juncture, Basel appeared like a breath of fresh air for Roger Federer. After all it is his hometown, and remains his happy and favourite hunting ground. He had won the tournament eight times and entered the finals as many as 13 times. The tournament is indoors, and on hard courts, conditions in which Roger thrives.
Yet at Basel too, Roger struggled. His 1st win was against the Serbian Felp Krajinovic who had only a solitary top ten win in his career, versus Novak, but where after one set Novak had retired.
Roger struggled to a three-set win 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and nine minutes. The next match was against Jan Lennard Struff, who by defeating Millman prevented a possible Roger-Millman re-match. It was the third meeting between the two and Roger had defeated the German in straight sets at both Australian Open and Wimbledon.
At Basel too Roger prevailed after being a break down in the first set to win 6-3 7-5 to advance to the quarter-finals.
Gilles Simon was the quarter final opponent, a player who has promised so much in career but delivered so little, considering his talent.
The former world number six, who has won 14 titles, once again promised but failed. It was an error-ridden match though for Roger who had first service of just 59 per cent and was broken as many as five times in his 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 win.
The only thing Roger did well in the match was to play a perfect tie-break to win it 7-1 and get the crucial break at 5-4 in the third set. Yet, the most passionate Roger fan would accept that it was a tough match against Simon and one which could have gone horribly wrong.
In the semi-finals, finally Roger produced a terrific display. He went on to win an easy 6-1 6-4 match against the 20th ranked Andrei Medvedev.
It was expected that he would play against Sascha Zverev but from nowhere the hard serving Marius Copil who had upset Cilic earlier defeated Sascha too to enter the final against the 14-time finalist. This is a record for any tournament.
Roger’s final opponent has an interesting record. He has the fastest serve ever at any Grand Slam tournament, a humongous 242km slash at the 2015 Australian Open. However that was his only second round appearance at any Grand Slam and that certainly is not enough credentials to threaten and defeat one of the greatest players who ever played the sport.
Yet, Roger was broken in both sets and it looked likely that he would drop a set as well, especially when he was down 1-4 in the second set. However, his greater experience prevailed and he won 7-6, 6-4.
For Roger, Basel is the second tournament where he has won nine titles, the other being the Gerry Weber Open (Halle). It was his fourth consecutive title win here and this was his 12th consecutive final at the event.
His five losses here have been to Del Potro, Novak, Tim Henman and to Thomas Enquist. His nine titles here have been won against Fernando Gonzalez, Jarko Nieminen, David Nalbandian, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori, David Goffin, Rafa Nadal, DelPo and now Copil.
Incredibly, the nine wins have been against nine different opponents.
Congratulations Roger Federer.