Federer heads Swiss delegation to Wimbledon

May the fourth be with him: Roger Federer clinching his third Wimbledon title in a row last year Keystone

Five Swiss – two men and three women – are among the 256 tennis players battling it out in the singles events at Wimbledon, which started on Monday.

This content was published on June 26, 2006 minutes

Three-time defending men's champion Roger Federer is heavy favourite to retain his title, but the No. 8 seed Patty Schnyder could cause a surprise in the women's competition.

It has become a Wimbledon tradition – like bad bounces, overpriced strawberries and occasional sunshine – that at 1pm on the tournament's first day, Roger Federer walks onto the Centre Court and begins defending his title.

This year the 24-year-old from Basel will be seeking to break the record of 41 consecutive grass-court victories he shares with Swedish legend Björn Borg.

To do so, on Monday Federer will have to beat French 20-year-old Richard Gasquet, a former world junior champion.

Federer, who has been ranked world number one since February 2004, edged Gasquet 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in the second round last week at Halle in Germany and went on to win the tournament – also for the fourth year in a row.

"It's very difficult to open the tournament in Wimbledon," Federer said. "It's maybe a privilege and an honour, but at the same time you can be the first guy out of the tournament. So it's a lot of pressure involved."

The only other Swiss male looking to pocket the winner's cheque for £655,000 (SFr1,485,000) is 21-year-old Stanislas Wawrinka from Lausanne, currently ranked 65 in the world.

Less for women

The women's draw is less predictable than the men's – and, controversially, less lucrative.

The women's champion will pick up £625,000, making Wimbledon the only one of the four Grand Slams (the others are the Australian, French and US Opens) not to offer equal prize money to men and women.

Not that money is an issue for the No. 12 seed, Switzerland's Martina Hingis, who won the tournament aged 16 in 1997.

Hingis returned to the women's tour in January after three years in retirement because of foot and ankle problems. Her match against Olga Savchuk is her first at Wimbledon since 2001.

Switzerland's other realistic hope is No. 8 seed Patty Schnyder, a 27-year-old left-hander from Basel with a history of knocking out higher-ranked opponents. At any rate, Schnyder will be hoping to improve on her performance last year when she went out in the first round.

As did the fifth Swiss representative at Wimbledon this year, Geneva-born Monte Carlo-living Emmanuelle Gagliardi, 20, currently ranked 119 in the world.

Winning chances

Roger Federer is odds-on favourite to retain his title, but there are many players eager to prove the bookmakers wrong.

Clay specialist Rafael Nadal has been seeded number two and is therefore in theory Federer's biggest threat. But in practice Andy Roddick, the number three seed and runner-up for the past two years, or Lleyton Hewitt must be considered a greater danger for the Swiss.

Nadal has beaten Federer four times so far this year but they have never met on grass, the Spaniard's least favourite surface. Nadal went out in the second round last year.

2004 champion Maria Sharapova is the bookies' favourite in the women's competition, followed by Justine Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters and defending champion Venus Williams.

As for a victory for the host nation, bookmaker William Hill said they had taken more bets that Elvis Presley is still alive than for a British woman to win Wimbledon.

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

In brief

Five Swiss are playing in Wimbledon this year: Roger Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka, Patty Schnyder, Martina Hingis and Emmanuelle Gagliardi.

2006 Wimbledon seeding – world ranking in brackets
1, Roger Federer, Switzerland (1).
2, Rafael Nadal, Spain (2).
3, Andy Roddick, United States (5).
4, David Nalbandian, Argentina (3).
5, Ivan Ljubicic, Croatia (4).

1, Amelie Mauresmo, France (1).
2, Kim Clijsters, Belgium (2).
3, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Belgium (3).
4, Maria Sharapova, Russia (4).
5, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Russia (7).

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Key facts

"The Championships" were first played under the control of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 1877. They moved to their present location in 1922.
This year Wimbledon starts on June 26 and the ladies' final is on July 8, the men's on July 9 – the same day as the football World Cup final.
Prize money for 2006: £655,000 (SFr1,485,000) for men, £625,000 for ladies.
The most consecutive wins in the modern era is five by Björn Borg (1976-80) and six by Martina Navratilova (1982-87).
An estimated 28 tonnes of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream are sold each year during the Championships.

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