Basel Surpassed My Wildest Dreams

It’s taken me this long to recover from my trip to Basel, Switzerland. To be honest, I’m still trying to process what happened there and why it was such a wonderful surprise. I won’t try to hide it because it’s fairly obvious; my desire to see Federer live is what got me on the road in 2009. So, it is fitting that a trip to Federer’s hometown tournament as media would leave me a bit awestruck.

Upon arriving in Basel, I strived to do my usual budget travel; I opted for the 40 minutes bus-train-walk to the hotel (9 CHF) option over the convenient but very pricey (78 CHF) 15 minute taxi ride. The hotel website said they were located a quick 15 minutes walk from the Pratteln train station, but of course I forgot to download the walking route to my phone. Without access to the Internet, I was flying blind. But 15 minutes surely means that I can spot the hotel in the distance, no? Well, after wandering around for about 45 minutes, I stopped and said very sternly out loud: “make better choices, damn it!” After that bit of pep talk, I returned to the train station, saw a bus, asked the bus driver where my hotel was located and he directed me to a bus that took me to the hotel in less than 5 minutes. Yup, I was back to taking the really long road in a foreign country. However, that would be the only hiccup in my fantastic trip in Federerland!

I checked into a thoroughly gorgeous hotel room at a rate that was so cheap, I probably could have stayed there for 2 weeks without killing my budget. The very next day, the lovely Swiss-African desk clerk directed me to a tram station that was only a 5-minute walk away. The tram then took me straight to the tennis tournament site. No fuss, no muss. I checked in at the site and was warmly greeted with my media pass, unlimited coffee and snacks, and live tennis.  But now I had to deliver for! It’s all fine and good to write about my tennis travels on this site as a fan but for the very first time I had to report on a tournament for someone else. Anyone who follows me on twitter knows that I’m not short of opinions about how folks should cover tennis. They need to ask the tough questions; damn it, they are reporters, they can’t be fans with typewriters! Well, what do you know? Saying a thing and doing it proved to be much harder than I imagined. It was nerve wracking sitting in a press conference and striving to ask a question that wasn’t completely obvious or done to death. Frankly, I’m just relieved I was only slated to cover one player. It made the job much easier. In the end, I opted for transparency: direct access video of Delpo’s press conferences, fun images of the match and completely uncontroversial match reports. I’m happy to say I didn’t embarrass myself, but I certainly was no cutting edge reporter in disguise! It was a humbling experience, which only made me want to get better.

Yes, I’ve said it out loud! I want to learn how to get better at this tennis writing thing. Phew!  This trip confirmed something I didn’t really want to face or admit: I love being on the road at tennis tournaments! I’ve dismissed it as a hobby or a pleasant distraction for long enough. It’s more than that; I might actually be in love with the sport and not just watching Federer (though that continues to be a BIG plus!).

They say admitting it is the first step. Now that I have, I do not know what lies ahead. All I know is that I’ll be seeing how I can do more of the work I did for and I’m prepared to stumble around in the dark and give it a go for as long as a I can.

Images from around the tournament …

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