Swiss hope to defy odds in Davis Cup clash

Switzerland's Davis Cup team, led by Roger Federer (pictured), will be hoping to put aside a damaging rift when they begin their clash against the powerful Australians on Friday.

This content was published on February 3, 2000 minutes

Switzerland's Davis Cup team will be hoping to put aside a damaging rift when they begin their clash against the powerful Australians on Friday. But, without their most successful player, they know they face an uphill struggle.

The tie gets under way with a match between George Bastl and the new wonderkid of Aussie tennis, Lleyton Hewitt. That's followed by the clash between Switzerland's own teenage star, Roger Federer (pictured), and the power-serving Mark Philippoussis.

Saturday sees what could be a decisive doubles encounter, in which Federer and Lorenzo Manta take on Sandon Stolle and Wayne Arthurs, the supposedly weak links in the Australian team.

On Sunday, Federer will play Hewitt, and Bastl will meet Philippoussis. The Swiss will be hoping those matches will not be merely academic.

The pundits are giving Switzerland little hope of beating the Australians, who won their 27th Davis Cup title last year. There's no doubt that the Swiss have been weakened by an internal feud that's resulted in their most experienced player, Marc Rosset, storming out of the team.

He and the other players were angry at the replacement of the former Davis Cup captain, Claudio Mezzadri, with Jakob Hlasek, and they threatened to boycott the tie against Australia. Hlasek managed to persuade the younger players to back down, but his rift with Rosset looks like it will take much longer to heal.

"Rosset is the most successful Swiss Davis Cup player, but it's been very difficult with his personality in recent months," Marc Walder, sports editor of the Blick newspaper. "I would say his absence can only be good for team spirit."

But the Australians are also without their top player. Pat Rafter is still recovering from shoulder surgery.

Walder say that if Federer can pull off a win against Philippoussis, and the first day ends all-square, then a Swiss upset is still possible. But there's no doubt that if the inexperienced Swiss manage to beat the defending champions it will rank as one of the biggest Davis Cup upsets in recent years.

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