Rafa had two first round losses here in 2003 and 2004. Then followed a ten year hiaitus when Basel did not feature in his calendar for one reason or another. Last year he played the tournament just before having his appendix out. Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, he lost in the quarter final. (The only surprise was that he got that far.) It was his last appearance of the year.
This year he came into it after a reasonably successful stint in Asia. He entered the doubles with Marc Lopez. They won their first match against Borna Coric (who was the player who beat Rafa in the singles last year) and Viktor Troicki, 6-1, 4-6, 10-5 and then lost a close quarter final to the number two seeds, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, 5-7, 6-7(5).
In the singles, Rafa had an absolute pig of a draw. His opening match was against Lukas Rosol. Always a joy to see his face across the net. Predictably, Rosol went all out to win and stormed through the first set in 23 minutes. Rosol broke Rafa again in the second set and was serving for the match. He was 30-0 up and just two points from victory when Rafa turned it all around. The third set went to a tiebreak and Rafa was 0-3 down in that before turning up the heat again to pull off a great victory, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(4).
"It was tough for me to get into the match. It was a little bit of everything. A little bit of luck, a little bit of belief, to keep fighting for this match. That's what I did."
He then had to play Grigor Dimitrov, possibly the most over-hyped player on the tour. Although he has taken sets off Rafa in some of their past meetings, he's never managed to beat him. It was the same story this time. There were nine breaks of serve in the match but Rafa won five of them and took the match, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
His quarter final was against Marin Cilic who has not beaten him since their first meeting back in 2009. It was another close contest with Rafa finally prevailing, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
"I was just fighting, always trying to find solutions in a difficult situation."
Richard Gasquet had not recorded a win against Rafa since a challenger match back in 2003 when Rafa retired and hadn't taken a set off him since 2008. He didn't manage to break that record here although he did try his best to take it to a third set. Rafa won, however, 6-4 7-6(7).
He was now in his 6th final of the year and facing Roger Federer for the first time on Federer's home turf. Despite a valiant effort he lost, 3-6, 7-5, 3-6.
Still, their head to head remains massively in Rafa's favour at 23-11.
Overall, it must have been a good tournament for Rafa's confidence. We just hope his knee is OK.