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Trio carry Swiss hopes in Australian Open

Hingis will be stretching herself to the limit in Melbourne Keystone

Switzerland's best hope at the Australian Open rests with the world number one - Roger Federer - a tennis expert tells swissinfo.

Federer, along with Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder, are flying the Swiss flag at the tournament which got underway in Melbourne on Monday.

Smash tennis magazine editor Michael Hasler said that while Federer had a good chance of a Grand Slam win, the Swiss women were less likely to do well.

Federer has been drawn against Uzbekistan wildcard Denis Istomin in the first round, while Hingis, herself a wildcard, faces 30th seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia. Schnyder, who broke into the top-ten rankings last year, will play Eleni Daniilidou of Greece.

swissinfo: Can Roger Federer start off this season with another Grand Slam win?

Michael Hasler: I think he is still the best men’s player despite the loss to Tommy Haas [in the Kooyong Classic earlier this month]. He knows how to win a Grand Slam and that’s important. If you have already won a Grand Slam then you are more able to win another, because it is different to winning other tournaments.

He is not at his best, though, after suffering an ankle injury and seems a bit handicapped still. He does not move as elegantly as he used to do.

But he will get better and better because he is not a player who needs much power for his game. He is very balanced and plays a very clever, economical game. We are going to see the best of Roger Federer this year.

swissinfo: How much will the withdrawal of Marat Safin, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal aid his chances?

M.H.: Without doubt it makes this tournament much easier for Federer. Do not forget, too, that local hero Lleyton Hewitt is also struggling with injury. He is a very tough opponent, especially in front of his home crowd, but he is not playing well enough at the moment to trouble Federer.

swissinfo: Is Martina Hingis ready for the Australian Open?

M.H.: I’m not too sure that she is ready yet and she certainly will not win this tournament. Maybe she can make the last eight, but she cannot beat the best players yet, as we saw when she lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne [ranked eighth in the world] in the Sydney International.

She has had a reasonable comeback so far but she needs more matches against great players. Women’s tennis has become more powerful since she retired, but it has not developed in terms of technical play.

Hingis is still one of the best technically and she is one of the top ten at playing shots. That will be her main strength later this season, but she needs to work harder on her physique. Nobody knows if her foot is 100 per cent.

swissinfo: Will Patty Schnyder fare any better than Hingis?

M.H.: Schnyder will do no better than last year. In 2005 she had a good tournament because of the schedule that gave her easy games, but this year it will be tough work to reach the last four.

Maybe she had too good a year in 2005 and she will find it tough to live up to that this year. She is in good shape physically, but she is not hitting the ball very well and has to find her game a bit.

swissinfo: Who would win if they met in the tournament?

M.H.: Schnyder would win because she has been playing more and when you play against her you have to run a lot. She is clever and plays the angles and that would be too much of a problem for Hingis at the moment.

swissinfo: Schnyder seems to have become forgotten since Hingis returned.

M.H.: In Switzerland people either love her or hate her. She is quite a fiery character unlike the nice-guy, gentle Federer, and some people find that hard to take.

At first she was everyone’s darling, but she has been labelled a wild, complicated girl and people are more focused on her parents, her lovers and her husband than they are on her tennis.

swissinfo: Could that rejection inspire her to play better?

M.H.: It is hard for her because she broke into the top ten, which is a great thing for a Swiss player, and she did not even get nominated for the Swiss Sports Awards. She always plays better when she is under pressure or angry so maybe that will help her.

swissinfo-interview: Matthew Allen

Roger Federer is the top ranked men’s player in the world and seeded number one in the Australian Open. He won the tournament in 2004, but was knocked out in the semi-final stage last year by eventual winner Marat Safin.
Martina Hingis plays as a wild card selection in her first Grand Slam tournament since making her comeback after a three-year injury absence. She won the tournament three times in a row from 1997 to 1999. Her last Australian Open victory was also the last of her five Grand Slam titles.
Patty Schnyder broke into the world top-ten rankings last year and is currently ranked seven. She made the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2004 and the quarter-finals last year, but has yet to win a Grand Slam title.

Roger Federer started 2006 by retaining his Qatar Open title, but was knocked out in the first round of the Kooyong Classic by Germany’s Tommy Haas. He was briefly sidelined with an ankle ligament injury at the end of 2005.

Martina Hingis started her comeback confidently by reaching the semi-final of the Australian Hardcourt Championships in January. But she was dumped out in the first round of the Sydney International by world number eight Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Patty Schnyder reached the quarter-final stage of the Australian Hardcourt Championship, a tournament she won in 2005 and 1999, and was knocked out in the second round of the Sydney International.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR