Travel blog on one-of-a-kind travel experiences

Triple-shocked in Gstaad – too soon, too strong, too handsome?


In what was a first for us, we took in an ATP world tour tennis final in beautiful Saanenland. Thin air at this altitude supposedly lets balls fly farther and bounce higher. That can make for stunners now and then…

J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad

All set for the big final!

J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad

Ready to start the ATP spectacle!

J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad

Suspenseful wait for the tennis match

Facing off in the final of the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad were heavy favorite Fabio Fognini from Italy and, from Germany, up-and-coming qualifier Yannick Hanfmann (ATP singles ranking 126 as of 8/14/2017).

The 25-year old German phenom had bested three tournament favorites in a row, among them last year’s victor, Feliciano Lopez, to earn this spot in his first ATP final. Call it a minor miracle, considering that he only joined the tennis tour 3 months ago!

In the semi-final against two-time Gstaad finalist Robin Haase, Hanfmann fought off no less than four match points before eking out a victory…

But, before the guys take to the court for the final that Sunday morning, first on the schedule is a show by the Swiss Air Force’s aerobatic PC-7 TEAM. 

In the wild blue yonder – the PC-7 TEAM

Katja and I are still milling around in the welcome tent when, around 10:50, a mighty thunder rolls across Gstaad’s chalet rooftops as nine red-and-white single-engine prop planes in formation roar past overhead.

Shock #1! Aren’t they just a bit early?

I dash out of the tent and yank my giant telescope lens skyward. Because of the frontlighting and darting planes half the photos are misses. But I shoot as rapid-fire as I can. And as the exposure time allows. In the end, I do manage to get the odd snapshot of the aerobatics squadron in action.

The pilots trace all manner of figures in the sky with their Pilatus PC-7 planes. Coordinating them is the former commander of the PC-7 TEAM Werner “Höffi” Hoffmann, while the TEAM’s PR man Andreas “Lifty” Hebeisen provides the stunt-by-stunt commentary.

As the pilots execute their breakneck maneuvers, the g-forces they incur quadruple their normal body weight. Wonder what it feels like to weigh 300 kilos?





PC-7 TEAM Swiss Air Force

PC-7 TEAM Swiss Air Air force

Swiss Air Force PC-7 TEAM

A show with heart: The Swiss Air Force PC-7 TEAM!

The fliers bid us adieu with a giant heart as they disappear into the Bernese sky. Say, can we make that a kissing emoji next time? I can’t wait to run this super idea by “Lifty.” He’s sure to go for it ;-)

David vs. Goliath – with tennis balls!

With the rolling thunder subsided and the vapor trails that had criss-crossed the sky fading away,  we take our seats in the stands with anticipation high, ready for what the posters promise: “Fiery southerner against talented newcomer”…

Gstaad Swiss Open Fabio Fognini

Against the fiery Mediterranean Fabio Fognini…

J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad

…the young challenger Yannick Hanfmann.

Fognini starts off on fire: Whether due to Hanfmann’s nerves or the sheer power behind Fognini’s racket, the Italian with the skull on his tennis top quickly takes the lead with two breaks.

The spectators may cheer for the underdog, so that Hanfmann actually manages to recover a break, but Fognini comes back full force to take the first set commandingly.

The young newcomer makes the second match a more even contest. He stays in contention until the last game.

But then — shock #2 —  a short match ball by Fognini does not make it back over the net and when Hanfmann leaves the court it is as the runner-up. Fognini is simply too much on his game this day.

Fabio Fognini J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad

Winner Fabio Fognini

J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad

Hanfmann congratulates Fognini on a well-deserved win


Fabio Fognini and Yannick Hanfmann

Fabio Fognini and Yannick Hanfmann show off their trophies

Sponsors, tournament director Jeff Collet with the winners

Sponsors, tournament director Jeff Collet with the winners

Trophies and interviews

As longs as we are here, we will be patient and stay around until after the trophy presentation just to get a closer look at the gentlemen.

Shock #3!

Katja is no longer in the seat beside me; instead, there she is, at the front of the line for interviewing the handsome Fabio — and now she stands next to him!

When I try to horn in, I am rejected by security guard Paul: “One at a time!”


Katja taking a picture of Fabio Fognini

Katja focusing on winner Fabio Fognini

J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad

Paul sees to the necessary interval…

Katja and Fabio Fognini

Italians flocking together: Katja with tennis pro Fabio Fognini

After what feels like half an eternity,  Katja comes back down to earth and, with my stomach growling, we saunter off to indulge in a comforting restaurant.

The next match we watch from a safe distance again on TV!

Our thanks this time…

… go to Antje Buchs of Gstaad Tourismus for getting us accredited to the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad. We make full use of the increased “maneuvering room” that comes with the press credential  ;-)

Our thanks also go to Colonel Hoffmann and Major Hebeisen for the background on the PC-7 TEAM. Very impressive, what these professional pilots manage to do there in the wild blue yonder!

Colonel Werner "Höffi" Hoffmann, ex-commander of the PC-7 TEAM, and spokesman Major Andreas "Lifty" Hebeisen

Colonel Werner “Höffi” Hoffmann, ex-commander of the PC-7 TEAM,
and spokesman Major Andreas “Lifty” Hebeisen

Here is a little-known fact: you can book the PC-7 TEAM for your own event. Maybe not quite for a garden party, but for a suitably larger occasion. But you need to do it by September for the following year, to give plenty of advance notice for the extensive preparations.


About Author

Walter Schaerer’s extensive background in the travel industry, passionate enthusiasm for photography and a firm belief that luxury destinations can also be affordable; were some of the main factors that motivated him to create the travel blog In his day job Walter is an online marketing manager based out of Zurich, Switzerland.


  1. Gioconda Schärer on

    I think you have had an unforgettable exprience and thanks for taken enough fotos to show us this wonderful spectacle

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