BERN - Roger Federer may be regarded by some as the best tennis player in history, but the world No 1 is beginning to get an uncomfortable taste of criticism in his home country of Switzerland.
“On the court he plays like he is out of this world, but outside he is more earthly than we would like to admit. Somewhat imperfect and very human,” the Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger recently wrote.
What is the criticism? It could be summed up with reference to too much love of money and too little commitment to the Davis Cup, the tournament which sees players compete in teams for their countries.
Federer’s trip last week to his home town, Basle, to play in its traditional indoors tournament, was bitter, and not just because he lost the final against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in the third-set tie-break.
In the corridors at St Jakobshalle, the headquarters of the medium-level tournament in the home stretch of the season, there were astonished comments on Federer’s alleged new requirements to play at the event again next year. The 31-year-old star has upped the stakes for a tournament at which he was once a ball-boy.
Over the past four years, Federer got $500 000 per edition of the tournament, tax free, beyond the official prize money. Tournament sources told dpa that he is now seeking to multiply that premium by four, to two million dollars per year, although Swiss media are reporting $1-1.5 million.
“We are not Qatar,” Rene Stammbach, president of the Swiss Tennis Federation, recently warned.
Tournament director Rogger Brennwald agreed.
“We will do everything to ensure Roger Federer keeps playing at Basle. But we do not have inexhaustible possibilities. Maybe we can no longer keep up. Not everyone can afford a Rolls-Royce,” he said.
Federer, who has played the event’s last seven finals and won five, denies that money issues are the problem.
“If I was running only after money, I would have made many other decisions, played throughout Asia. I have always given priority to Basle. I have already helped the tournament a lot. Because of that the onus is more on (Brennwald) than on me,” he said.