Nov/19

6

Koenig Recalls His First Federer Encounter In Basel in 1998

Former ATP doubles player and TV broadcaster Robby Koenig shared his memories of witnessing Roger Federer for the first time in Basel.

“Well, it’s an interesting story. The first time I ever found out about Roger I was playing doubles in Basel,” remembers Koenig. “And I was playing with my doubles partner at the time – John Laffnie De Jager – he’s actually the South African Davis Cup captain now. Anway, we go to get our credentials and I start talking to the lady who is doing the credentials and she had a South African accent and immediately I struck up a conversation with her. And her name is Lynette. So I said, Hi Lynette, how are you? We start talking about where are you from? Benoni. What’s your involvement with the tournament? How long have you been involved with the tournament?”

Lynette engaged the conversation with Koenig, who continued his elaboration of the memory. “So she says, I’ve been involved in tennis quite a while here. My son plays tennis. I said, Oh, that’s very nice. So I said, Is he any good? She said, Yeah, he’s very good. He’s got a wildcard here this week. He’s only seventeen. And I think he’s pretty good.”

“Anyway, we end up getting our credentials and me and John Laffnie De Jager put our credentials on and start to walk away. And I turn to him and say, Typical tennis parents. She probably thinks her son is going to be the next best thing! And of course, that was Lynette Federer. And that was my first encounter with Lynette, in a discussion about Roger.”

Koenig said he became curious to see this mystery Swiss boy in action. “So I felt, Hmmm, let me see how good this kid is. So we practiced that day and I went to sit courtside to see who this half South African kid was that plays pretty good tennis. And of course he played Agassi that year in Basel. And you could see then, this kid was pretty fluid, wasn’t intimidated on the big tennis stage. And obviously since that very day and that meeting with Lynette, I always kept an eye on Roger and watched him develop right before my eye. And to this day, when I see Lynette, she looks at me, she says, Hey Robby, he didn’t turn out too bad did he [smiles]?! So that’s the story of my first encounter with Roger.”

Agassi won this initial match vs Federer 63 62 and their next clash at US Open in 2001 round of 16 by a scoreline of 61 62 64. Then they played next in the Miami Open final the following year, 63 63 36 64.

Federer finally figured out the Agassi puzzle the next year in the final at the ATP Masters Cup, routing Agassi 63 60 64.

Federer eventually won the head to head series with Agassi 8-3, winning their last eight matches after losing the first three. Their last meeting was the 2005 US Open final. Federer prevailed 63 26 76 61.

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6 comments

  • Hartt · November 6, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    What a terrific story. Yes, Roger “didn’t turn out too bad.”

    In Rene Stauffer’s Fed biography, “Roger Federer, Quest for Perfection,” both Roger’s parents come across as very nice, down to earth people.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 6, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks Hartt, yes Robby Koenig has some stories and anecdotes and insights. Great source and top notch guy.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 7, 2019 at 4:18 am

    Was Robby Koening trying to pick up Roger Federer’s mom? Funny, I never think of Fed as being half-So. African, but he is. Probably got the athletic gene from his mom too as his father doesn’t look very athletic, kind of portly and short.

  • Andrew Miller · November 7, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    Koenig, he must be a great guy. He’s an excellent announcer. Stays focused on the tennis, his enthusiasm for players is welcome and he appreciates a good shot and well plan point when he sees it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 8, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Let me confirm that, Koenig IS a great guy.

  • Hartt · November 8, 2019 at 10:39 am

    In his Federer biography Stauffer wrote that Robert introduced Lynette to tennis when they were dating in Johannesburg and she, a former field hockey player, took to the sport immediately. But Stauffer describes Robert as “athletic, strong, quick-witted, funny, cosmopolitan and easy-going.” This could be a description of Roger.

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