Reto Schmidli, the only person to ever beat Roger Federer 6-0 6-0, recalls the time he defeated the future world number one in a junior match in Basle. Schmidli is now a police officer and a recreational tennis player.
“It was a long time ago. I think I was 13 and Roger was 10. It was one of the biggest junior tournaments in the area of Switzerland around Basle, and we played in the first round. I seem to remember that it was a hot day. As it was Roger’s first ever junior tournament, it was understandable that he was nervous on the court, and he made a lot of mistakes. I had no idea then that I was playing someone who would go on to win all those grand slams. There was no sign then that he was going to be that good. We couldn’t see then that he was going to become the world No 1.
“It’s a great memory to have, especially when I watch him on television winning all the tournaments. No one else can say they beat Roger 6-0, 6-0. But maybe I was just lucky to have been his opponent that day. I think that anyone could have beaten Roger that day. But even though he didn’t win a game, you could see that he had a good touch – he tried special shots all the way through.
“He didn’t play like other young guys in Switzerland, who concentrated on keeping the ball in play and not making any mistakes. Roger was different, as he tried to play spectacular points. Perhaps that was a sign. It wasn’t normal tennis that he was playing. But it was only when he was about 14 that people realised that he could be quite good, that he was better than most other players, but even we didn’t know that he would be so special.”
“People around Basle do know me as the guy who once beat Roger 6-0, 6-0. Recently, I was at work, and we were doing some routine car-checks, and the guy in the vehicle said: ‘Are you the guy who beat Roger 6-0, 6-0?’ So that was nice. It was funny to be recognised when I was wearing my police uniform. But there are other times when people make jokes about me, saying, ‘Look at you, you beat Federer, and now you are a policeman’. I don’t find that funny. But most people are nice to me.
“I have seen Roger in Basle since that match, once at the indoor tournament in the city and the other time out on Saturday night. He is very busy but he’s still the same guy. We didn’t talk about the match, but he said hello. I’m happy that he still knew who I was. But that’s the sort of guy that Roger is. A lot of other tennis players are very arrogant. But Roger is very down to earth. He’s not arrogant, he’s relaxed. He isn’t playing tennis for the money. He hasn’t changed as a guy, and I think that’s great. Of course, being a policeman is more dangerous than being a tennis player. Nothing can happen to you on a tennis court. But, as a policeman, it can be dangerous – if criminals have a weapon and you notice too late, then you could get hurt.”
“I still live in the suburbs of Basle. I never really had ambitions of becoming a professional player, but I went to Australia for a few months between high school and university, and tried to qualify for a few Satellite tournaments. I never got into the main tournament, though – once I won two matches in qualifying, but then lost in the final round. So because I never made it out of qualifying, I didn’t get any points to give me a world ranking. And then I came back to Switzerland, and tried to qualify for a couple of Satellite tournaments, but I never got past the first round. I still play tennis, but only once a week, as I don’t have time to play any more than that. I play for my club in inter-club matches.”