A Swiss watches the Swiss

Dr. Fritz Strolz was born in Switzerland and graduated in ETH Zurich — the same university where Albert Einstein studied. When we visited two summers ago, Uncle Fritz drove his trusted Alfa Romeo and toured us. We inspected the artifacts inside the IOC Museum in Lausanne and climbed Mt. Rigi, gazing at the Swiss Alps. Dr. Strolz also brought us to the Tennis Club Old Boys — historic because a young kid learned to hit forehands there. That child was Roger Federer.

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With Dr. Fritz Strolz at the IOC Museum

Dr. Strolz and his beautiful wife Pearle are in Australia this week and he sent me this message two days ago: “We are headed to the Rod Laver Arena to watch the Maestro against Stanimal! The Swiss fans have the torture of choice. We are in a dilemma. To whom do the hearts fly? Roger, the biggest player in the tennis circus, who inspired the world with his comeback? Or Stan, the tireless fighter, who also gave us a lot of great sport hours?”

The Strolz couple had good seats. They sat in Row 20 with each ticket priced at Aus$296 (P11,250). “The tournament is world-class,” he said. “Great stadiums, excellent infrastructure, helpful and friendly staff.” That day — Jan. 26 — was special not only for Switzerland but also because it was Australia Day.

“For us, it was a crazy game,” Dr. Strolz said. “There were all ingredients for a tennis fire. Stan or Roger, Roger or Stan? The answer kept waiting long. As Roger fans, we trembled. Stan had advantages in the 5th set before he gave Roger the decisive break. Roger was supported loudly during the whole game.”

The Federer vs. Wawrinka battle was a seesaw fight. Roger won the first two sets. Stan took the next two and gained the momentum. In the decider, Stan had two break points that could have sealed the match. He missed those and lost an error-prone service game to hand his doubles partner (Jasmin and I watched them win the Olympic gold in Beijing) and Davis Cup teammate the victory.

Among the 18,644 tennis fans who watched were plenty of Swiss. “There were spectators who painted their faces with the Swiss flag,” Dr. Strolz said. “All RF fan articles were sold out.”

Why, I asked the man who lives in the same city (Basel), is Roger so loved and respected?

“It is certainly his record,” Dr. Strolz said. “On the other side, his style: elegant, stylish and light-footed. In addition, his restraint and humility, on and off the court. He always sports good behavior.”

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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