What else does a tennis nation need to prove its success when you have Roger Federer and Martina Hingis in your hall of fame?
Switzerland has a long history of tennis going back to real tennis in the middle ages. When lawn tennis began, Switzerland quickly took the sport to its heart and in 1898, the Swiss Open, a clay court tournament, was founded. In January 1913 (some reports say 1914) the country got its first covered court and tennis could be played in the long Winters. In 1915 the first Swiss Open tournament was played for the first time and was still being played in 2019.
The Swiss’s long standing passion for the sport is reflected in their Davis Cup history- they have been regular participants in the Davis Cup since 1923 and have played 85 times with 23 appearances in the world groups and one win in 2014. On the womens’ side, the Fed Cup team has competed 56 times since 1963.
On the international year round tennis circuit, in the late 1970s and 1980s, Swiss tennis had some of its biggest success with Heinz Gunthardt who won the 1985 mens’ doubles title and the mixed doubles at the US Open ‘85. Gunthardt also reached a career high ranking of 22 in singles.
Swiss tennis really boomed from the 1990s with Marc Rosset’s Olympic Gold and his French Open doubles title with fellow Swiss Jacob Hlasek. In the late 1990s, Patty Schynder entered the WTA top ten. It was around this time that Swiss tennis reached great heights- Hingis came to worldwide attention in 1994 and five years later, in 1999, Federer captured the public imagination.
Hingis and Federer’s huge success means there is a huge awareness of tennis in Switzerland with regular televised matches and plenty of juniors enthusiastic to play and to take it seriously. Tennis is one of the Swiss’ top four sports alongside football, ice hockey and skiing. In 2018, the country had the highest percentage of its population playing tennis in Europe.
Switzerland has had an innovative influence on international tennis development, too- in 2016, a Swiss start up company Technis invented a tactile and interactive tennis court which detects all on court movement.
When Switzerland produces top flight tennis players, it does so in grand style.
Is there a more famous player in tennis history than Roger Federer?
Federer has won 20 slam, has spent 310 weeks at No.1 and his playing style is widely celebrated for its uniqueness and flair.
Did you know?
Roger Federer’s wife, Mirka, also from Switzerland, was a tennis player? Mirka and Roger played doubles together at the Hopman Cup. Mirka also beat Belgian all time great Justine Henin on the WTA challenger circuit in 1999.
Federer has had Swiss company at the top, too. Stan Wawrinka did something few players could achieve- he won three Majors in the era of the Big 3, and he beat Novak Djokovic in two finals (French Open and US Open) and Rafa Nadal in one (Australian Open).
Switzerland has also given us one of the game’s most talented women players. In the late 1990s, Martina Hingis made a huge impact on the sport- she was the youngest major champion at 16 years and 3 months when she won the Australian Open ‘97. She would reach six Australian Open finals in a row, win five Majors in total, and spend 209 weeks at No.1, putting her fifth on the all time list.
Patty Schnyder, a top ten player in the 1990s, was famed for her versatility and flair.
Marc Rosset won Olympic Gold at Barcelona 1992. He also reached the 1996 French Open semi-finals.
Timea Bacsinszcky reached the Roland Garros semi-finals in 2015 and 2017.
Did you know?
Bacsinszky took time out of her tennis pro career after suffering a foot injury in 2011. She worked in the hospitality industry for a couple of years and when she returned to tennis in 2014, she achieved her best results- two slam semi-finals and a top ten ranking.
Belinda Bencic was a top ten player who beat Serena Williams for the 2015 Canadian Open title.
Jacob Hlasek was a former top ten player who reached the 1991 French Open quarter-finals where he lost to Andre Agassi. He also won the 1992 French Open Doubles titles with fellow Swiss Marc Rosset.
Manuela Maleeva was born in Bulgaria and played for Switzerland from 1990-1994. As a Swiss player, she reached back to back semi-finals at the US Open in ‘92 and ‘93.
Did you know?
It was Swiss player George Bastl who, as a lucky loser, ended Pete Sampras’ Wimbledon career, upsetting him in five sets in the second round.
Davis Cup- Switzerland reached the 1992 Davis Cup final. In 2014, they beat France to win the Davis Cup for the first time since they first competed in 1923. The final featured Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, who were both Grand slam champions, partnering up to put the Swiss team ahead 2-1 on the second day. On the third and final day, Federer defeated Richard Gasquet to win Switzerland the cup.
Olympics- Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka won Gold in doubles in Beijing.
Federer won Silver in the mens’ singles at the London ‘12 Olympics.
Marc Rosset won the 1992 Barcelona Olympics singles.
The Swiss indoors held in Basel is an ATP 500 indoor tournament held in Autumn. Federer has won it ten times from fourteen finals appearances.
The Swiss Open is an ATP 250 Clay court event held in Gstaad in Summer.
Tennis is a very expensive sport in Switzerland and while the country is generally wealthy, becoming a tennis professional is still a risky prospect. For young athletes, they may have a better chance of success and a return on their investment by taking up soccer or winter sports, for example ice hockey.
However, if young players do take up tennis, they receive top class infrastructure and support. All the bases are covered in a players’ training and fitness is a priority.
Switzerland’s location is also a major advantage for its players. Switzerland’s location makes it easy for players to travel abroad for competition and also makes it accessible for non Swiss players
Tennis players compete in their age group but if they are good enough they can play in an older age bracket and develop at their own pace. .
Swiss tennis has a very protected ranking system which means players cannot just pick up points abroad at less strong events and have them count towards their national ranking. They are only rewarded if they win matches at the higher tier tournaments. That means players who graduate from the system are the very toughest and best competitors.
Former Swiss player Heinz Gunthardt coached Germany’s Steffi Graf from 1992 to 1999.
Swiss coach Severin Luthi is a long term coach of Federer as well as working as a Davis cup coach and captain.
Luthi has worked with Federer since 2007. The two started out as hitting partners in juniors, went on to work together as coach and player in Davis Cup, and then, when Federer parted ways with coach Tony Roche, he hired Luthi to replace him. While other coaches have been added to the team as head coach, such as Paul Annacone, Stefan Edberg and Ivan Ljubicic, Luthi has remained on the Federer team and is a valued friend as well as coach.
Federer said, when Luthi won Swiss coach of the year in 2017, that Luthi was his "rock in his corner for years".
Luthi also coached the Swiss Davis Cup team to their 2014 trophy.
The Swiss tennis academy in Biel is the nation’s tennis center. The academy is located on a street named after Roger Federer himself.