The Swiss Indoors tennis tournament had seemed almost like a fairytale this year, with local hero Roger Federer bidding to win his first ever singles title in the same arena where he had once been a ball boy.
But Sunday's final failed to bring a happy ending for the 19-year-old Swiss number one. After twice coming back from a set down, Federer was unable to slay his fairytale giant, Sweden's Thomas Enqvist.
The world number six seized the first set 6-2, after breaking Federer in his very first service game. But Federer responded in kind, beating Enqvist's serve in the first game of the second set, before levelling the match at 2-6, 6-4.
The third set was the tightest yet with both players giving little away on their serve. At last, in what seemed like a decisive moment, Federer broke Enqvist to take a 6-5 lead. But as Federer served for the lead, the Swede earned his first break point of the set, which he promptly won with a powerful shot down the line.
It was a shot that cost Federer the set, with Enqvist going on to take the subsequent tie-break 7-4. But no-one who had witnessed Federer's titanic victory against Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-finals would have written the Swiss player off at that point, and sure enough another fightback was soon underway.
In his best period of the match, Federer produced a dazzling array of shots, breaking his opponent's serve twice to take the fourth set 6-1. But in the fifth and final set it all fell apart.
As in the opening set, Federer lost on his first service game. This time though he had little time to recover, and his opponent knew it. Enqvist, who had played solidly throughout the match, upped a gear in the closing stages to break Federer once again.
After almost three hours of play, the Basel teenager was making a runners-up speech, quickly mumbling thanks to supporters and officials at the end of what had so nearly been the week of his life.
"I was very disappointed right after the match and that's why my speech was a little bit short," Federer said afterwards.
Asked if Saturday's gruelling semi-final had affected his stamina on Sunday, Federer refused to make excuses. "My legs were sore of course," he said, "but I think that's a normal feeling when you're playing a long match.
"But it wasn't in the fifth set that I lost it. I lost it in the third. He (Enqvist) was just too good for me, but I was close."
Federer's disappointment was capped just a few hours later by defeat in the final of the doubles competition. The Swiss number one and his partner, Dominik Hrabaty, were beaten in three sets by America's David Johnson and South Africa's Piet Norval.
Despite losing twice on finals day, Federer has won plenty of praise this week from some of the game's most experienced players and observers. And after seeing him reach two singles semi-finals and a final in less than two months, many of them believe that Federer's Basel fairytale has not been cancelled, but merely delayed.
by Mark Ledsom
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