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Swiss look to Federer factor

Roger Federer gets in some training before the Davis Cup kicks off


Switzerland will be pinning their hopes on an in-form Roger Federer this weekend when the country's top men's tennis players take on the United States in the first round of the Davis Cup.

The 19-year-old returns to his hometown of Basel fresh from winning his first ATP singles title in Milan. Federer's milestone victory followed a string of good performances in 2000, where he reached the quarterfinals or better in seven tour events.

Federer's steadily improving results stand in stark contrast to Switzerland's recent efforts in the Davis Cup.

In the past five years, the country's players have failed to progress beyond the tournament's second round. In his efforts to turn things around, Swiss captain Jakob Hlasek has put his faith in a young and promising team.

Michel Kratochvil is, like Federer, a Swiss youngster who appears to be in strong shape going into the Basel clash. The 21-year-old from canton Bern was particularly impressive at the Australian Open where he reached the third round of a grand slam for the second time in his career.

Kratochvil made his debut in the Davis Cup for Switzerland in last year's qualifying round, never losing a match. He jumped 232 places in the 1999 rankings, and a further 46 in 2000 to end the year in the top 100.

George Bastl will be making his third Davis Cup appearance this year. In 2000's qualifying event, he beat Max Mirnyi of Belarus, scoring the first point in Switzerland's 5-0 win.

Lorenzo Manta is unlikely to feature in the singles rubbers but has proven himself to be a capable doubles specialist. He has won five double rubbers on the trot in the competition after conceding one match when partnered with Marc Rosset.

The US team, captained by Patrick McEnroe, will be led into battle by the 30-year-old Todd Martin.

Martin will be representing his country for the eighth straight year. During his ten-year career, Martin has notched up eight career titles, and has been in two Grand Slam singles finals.

The United States' Justin Gimelstob has been drafted in for his doubles skills, and is probably going to play on Saturday. Gimelstob has had a poor showing in previous head to heads with Swiss players, losing in straight sets to Roger Federer and after four sets to Michel Kratochvil.

Jan-Michael Gambill was called up to the American squad after some impressive performances, notably reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year.

But it is Andy Roddick who could prove the surprise package of the tie. The 18-year-old has been world junior No 1 in both singles and doubles, winning the junior versions of the Australian and US Opens as well as the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl titles.

When McEnroe was made team captain, he promised to bring in some young talent and a good performance by Roddick would certainly fulfil that pledge.

Switzerland will be hoping to put last year's narrow defeat by Australia behind them and capitalise on the euphoria surrounding the recent success of their players on the international circuit.

by Samantha Tonkin


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The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting