Tuesday 16 September 2014


The dream team-duo of  Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka have steered the Swiss national team to Davis Cup finals - only their second appearance. The dream which remained distant for more than twenty years is finally within their grasp.

Swiss Tennis has made constant headlines in the last two decades; starting with Marc Rosset's incredible gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Then came the talented kid on the tennis world to grace women's tennis - Martina Hingis. It was Hingis who took Switzerland and its tennis programme to great heights before her career came to an end prematurely. The mantle was then passed on to Roger Federer and he has exceeded everyone's expectations and went on to become the best athlete his country has ever produced and one of the best tennis has ever witnessed.

Roger Federer has won almost everything that has to be won in tennis singles, barring Olympic Gold singles and Davis Cup. He was always a lone man who pushed his team and on more than one occasion the dreams of Davis Cup were weakened by the absence of a solid #2 singles player. With the progress Wawrinka has had so far in 2014, the combo 'FEDERINKA' looked favourites coming into the semi-finals clash against Italy and so far they have emulated Switzerland's best performance at the Davis Cup.

Before the last day, the tie between Switzerland and Italy was 2-1 in favour of the home side, Switzerland. The Geneva indoor stadium at Palexpo was a sea of red and white fans filled with great enthusiasm. The weather was perfect and the buzz on those temporary seating - constant cheers, foot tapping, horns being blown and the loud vocal support whenever Roger Federer was pushed to a corner with his opponent on a break point was just too much for the Italians to handle. It showed in the way they played.

Federer started slowly and it took some time before we saw him bring out his discipline executing those volleys unsettling Fabio Fognini and forced him make those unforced errors. Within no time, the Swiss ace had taken the first set 6-2.

In the second set, it was the same story expect that Fognini held his serve one more than he did in the first set. A little too easy perhaps for the 17-time Grand slam winner as he won the second set 6-3.
Fognini played some of his best game in the third set. It was 'the set' as far as Italy was concerned. Perhaps, it was too much to expect Fognini to outclass Federer - but what if he took the match to the fifth set? Federer is no longer in his twenties and once you are in fifth set, it is anybody's game. Fognini took the lead 6-5 and Federer did well enough to force a tie breaker.

I was given an impression, Federer was not at his best. The only motivation that seemed to him was to steer the team into the finals - something which he has never managed to achieve in his illustrious career. This was his and Switzerland's best chance since their semi-finals appearance in 2003.

In the tiebreaker, Federer was in a different zone and the intent was seen as he did not let the match to slip or go the distance. He brought on all his skills and aggression to the court which saw him take the lead 6-4 in the tiebreak. One point separated the place in the finals. Crowd is busy engrossed in their songs and praises while the umpire had to beg once, twice for their silence.

The silence was short-lived as the crowd went berserk, so does the Swiss master and the entire Swiss Davis cup team. This was a result they had never experienced previously and soon the band of brothers took the central stage, waving to all sections of the crowd. Federer was ferried held high across the courts by Wawrinka and their coach Severin Lüti - a sight of happiness, relief and an opportunity to win the elusive Davis Cup title.

When it came to lifting Wawrinka, he ran away before making his intentions clear to his mates about him not in a mood to be carried around.

Roger Federer is ranked third and Wawrinka fourth in the ATP rankings currently. Wawrinka's famous win at this year's Australian Open and Federer's consistent show has ensured Switzerland to field two of the best singles players on the circuit. The rest of the team are relatively unknown, who in spite of playing on the circuit for close to a decade, have rarely made any significant contribution.
The quarterfinals against Kazakhstan early this year was a narrow escape which needed Switzerland to win both the reverse singles matches to enter semi-finals. And finals will be even greater challenge with three of the top 20 ranked players feature in the French team.

The crowd which came in great numbers to witness the Swiss team knew there is a not a lot of tennis left in Federer's career. His personal life with four children and a lovely wife is a huge incentive for him not to keep on playing. One fine day, he might just take a call of calling it quits. A world cup in tennis is just around the corner and what a wonderful addition it would be to his career. For Swiss, it is their country that comes first and then individuals - though it is only fair from what we witnessed, Swiss love Roger! and they will root him and his teammates to win their first Davis Cup title.

There will be people - a lot of them from Switzerland who will be queuing up in France to witness this historic moment unfold. The last time these two countries met was in 2004 quarterfinals - in which the Swiss team lost. That was ten years ago and Switzerland back then did not boast itself of having two solid singles players. Things look different and I must say, now  they look favourites.

In 1992, the Swiss team was blown away by the sheer talent of the US Davis cup team. Jim Courier, Andre Agassi playing the singles while John McEnroe and Pete Sampras partnered in doubles.

Will it be too much on the shoulders of Federer and Wawrinka when compared with a better all-round team of France led by Tsonga with Richard Gasquet and Monfils in the squad?

While in the singles, the Swiss appear sharper - but on a given day these three players from France are more than capable to beat the Swiss stars. It will not be a one-sided final. However, emotionally all eyes will be on Switzerland and in particular Roger Federer! 

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