Switzerland is world famous as a financial center as well as home to multinational companies like Nestlé and Rolex. The city of Geneva is famous as the global human rights and humanitarian capital. In multilateral diplomacy, Switzerland is often said to punch above its weight, hosting major conferences such as the recent one on Syria. In sports, especially in skiing, Switzerland is among the top countries in the world. But in tennis?
Certainly Swiss individuals have shined. On the men’s side, Roger Federer holds therecord with 17 Grand Slam titles. On the women’s side, Martina Hingis spent 209 weeks as the world no. 1 and won 5 Grand Slam titles. Marc Rosset won the men’s singles Gold Medal at the 1992 Olympic Games. And currently, Switzerland has two players ranked among the men’s top 5, Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, winner of the recent Australian Open. However, Switzerland has never punched above its weight in tennis as a country nor has it ever been considered a training ground for future stars like Florida or Spain. But Switzerland may be approaching a unique sports moment as a country.
The Davis Cup is the major international team competition in men’s tennis. The Swiss have bounced between the top World Group and lower levels. The Cup began in 1900 as a challenge between Great Britain and the United States as a rather elitist event conceived by four members of the Harvard University team. The first event was held at the exclusive Longwood Cricket Club in Boston. The event has expanded; by 2013, 130 nations entered teams into the competition. The best the Swiss have done was in 1992 when the team of Marc Rosset and Jakob Hlasek lost to the American Dream Team of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Jim Courier in the final in Fort Worth, Texas.
This year augurs well. The major tennis power, Spain, is out of the competition having been upset in a previous round. All that remains for the Swiss is to beat Italy in the semi-finals in Switzerland in September, and either France or the Czech Republic in an eventual final. The Swiss have responded to this possibility. During the April 4-6 quarter finals here in Geneva, 16,000 fans whooped and shook cow bells to encourage their players in an unexpectedly difficult weekend which the Swiss finally won 3-2 by capturing both reverse singles on Sunday.
“We’re very relieved and very happy,“ said Federer, who lacks only the Davis Cup to crown a phenomenal career. Federer was rather circumspect after the match about the future tie against Italy; “The last thing I want is to talk about, to think about it, to discuss about it. There’s a certain time and place to do that,” Federer said at a news conference. “The only hope I always have is that we will be healthy.”
Certainly all of Switzerland will be hoping for a victory in September leading to a unique opportunity to bring the sterling silver trophy home. After all, if the Swiss boat Alinghi could win the America’s Cup in sailing, why can’t the Swiss team win the Davis Cup in tennis?