BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Roger Federer is playing better tennis these days — just not quite good enough to win titles.
Juan Martin del Potro denied Federer his hometown Swiss Indoors title for the second straight year, winning the final 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-4 on Sunday.
Federer reached his first final in more than four months and showed no sign of the back problems that hampered him during the most difficult season of his career.
"I am a winner, I don't take much confidence from losing matches," Federer said. "I am happy about the level of my play, it's getting better, but it's not in losing where I get much confidence."
Federer had hoped that the raucous crowd support in Basel — where he is a five-time champion — could help revive his form. He's won just one title in the past 14 months.
Del Potro beat the player he described as "a big inspiration" for the third straight time, including the 2012 Basel final.
"I think Roger is playing well," the fifth-ranked Argentine said. "For me, he has the perfect game. He played much better when he has the chance to play the top guys."
Still, Federer has only one victory against a top-10 opponent in 2013. That was back in January, against then-No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open quarterfinals, before a series of defeats against opponents outside the top 50.
Federer can take one positive from his Swiss Indoors run, as it all but secured a place in the eight-man lineup at the ATP World Tour Finals in London starting on Nov. 4.
The sixth-ranked Swiss star would confirm his London place at the Paris Masters in midweek if he wins a second-round match against Kevin Anderson of South Africa or Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.
"Looking forward to Paris and London, he is going to be a really difficult opponent," del Potro said. "Then he has the time for recovery to be ready for next season."
The 32-year-old Federer still holds a 13-5 career record against the 25-year-old del Potro, but last beat him in the London Olympics semifinals at Wimbledon.
Del Potro earned his 17th career title and fourth this season. He also won at Rotterdam in February, Washington D.C. in August and Tokyo this month, all on his favored hard-court surface.