Schnyder no name in Swiss homeland
Hingis, Federer get most of attention
By Jerry Magee
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
August 5, 2006
CARLSBAD – Unless your name happens to be Martina Hingis or Roger Federer, being from Switzerland and playing tennis is not apt to make you a towering figure in your homeland.
Consider Patty Schnyder. She can play. She has been ranked as high as No. 7 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. (Her current ranking is No. 8.) Her style, with a left-handed forehand delivered with exaggerated topspin, has a lot about it that is unique.
But in her native Switzerland, Schnyder is back in the woodwork in terms of celebrity status.
“She consistently has been below the surface,” said Robert Engel, a Swiss native who was at the La Costa Resort and Spa yesterday when Schnyder secured a place in today's semifinals of the Acura Classic by defeating Russia's Elena Dementieva 6-4, 6-3.
Engel offered two reasons for Schnyder not being more recognized than she is. One is Hingis. The other is Federer. They might not be the most charismatic personalities in tennis, but they would be close.
“When Hingis was coming up, all the Swiss guys were going crazy, shaving their heads and following her,” said Engel. “Now she's back. She's 'the comeback kid.' Now everybody is following Federer.”
Engel, who maintains residences in Manhattan and New Brunswick, N.J., was born in the bilingual Swiss community of Biel-Bienne. The “Biel” is German, the “Bienne” French.
“It's the capital of the watch industry,” Engel said of his birthplace. “So they're very exact.”
To Engel, the Swiss people – the country has a population of only 7.3 million – have afforded Schnyder the accord of a champion just once – when she outplayed Serena Williams in 2001 in Charleston, S.C. Schnyder, however, said she does not feel she has been overlooked.
“I get so much e-mail,” she said. “People just love me. I wouldn't want to have more attention.”
Schnyder, 27, and her husband, Rainer Hofmann, who is also her coach, are writing a book dealing with life on the tennis tour. It is to be titled “White Mile.” No, the white is not a reference to the lines on a tennis court.
“It just means so many things,” Schnyder said of the book's proposed title. “Sometimes,” she added, “when you dig deeply into something, you find that other things are going on.”
Schnyder played a nicely structured match yesterday against Dementieva, with whom she had divided 10 previous tests. The Swiss woman took the first set by breaking with her opponent serving at 4-5, then got another break with Dementieva at the line in the second set at 3-4 that positioned Schnyder to serve out the match.
“You just never know what she is doing,” Schnyder said of Dementieva. “She attacks you. She can spin you. She runs pretty well, but today she missed too many. She likes to run from corner to corner, but in the middle, she was missing.” Schnyder's reward for winning: a match in the semifinals against Maria Sharapova. “She is mentally so tough,” Schnyder said of the 19-year-old Russian. “She focuses on each ball so well. I'm going to try to win her serve and make her move. I see myself able to make her run. Not that she is running badly, but I feel that is going to be my tactic. I know I have a chance.”