Federer hoping to emulate Hingis
Rotterdam, February 20
Martina Hingis's retirement from top flight tennis has left Roger Federer with the responsibility of flying the flag for Switzerland.
While the men's world number five acknowledges that Hingis's decision has robbed his country of one of its brightest stars, Federer hopes that he will be able to emulate his compatriot and raise the profile of the sport in Switzerland.
"What she did for Swiss sport and tennis was fabulous," the 21-year-old Federer told Reuters in an interview on Thursday at the World Indoor Tournament in Rotterdam.
"She definitely created a tennis boom in Switzerland. Many young girls want to be like her..they want to have the same backhand, the same shots.
"But it's very difficult to imitate Martina because she has got too much talent and is too smart on the court.
"I hope in the same way I can create a little boom on the men's side. Now we have a lot of players in the top 50 in the women's side and maybe we can have some more in the men's side."
Hingis decided to retire earlier this month after she failed to regain full fitness from ankle surgery.
The 22-year-old former world number one captured five grand slam titles during her career, but none since her victory at the 1999 Australian Open.
One of the canniest players around the court, she became increasingly frustrated by her inability to handle the power hitters of today's game and was troubled by her ankle throughout the last couple of years.
In 2001, she even launched a lawsuit against clothing manufacturers Sergio Tacchini after alleging their shoes damaged her feet.
Having had surgery to repair damaged ankle ligaments last May, her comeback to competition proved to be disappointing and short-lived.
Fed up with life on the tour, the enigmatic Swiss decided to take an indefinite break from the game last October, a move that Federer said was not really unexpected.
"We have to accept her decision. It's very disappointing that she's had to retire at such a young age.
"She's only a year older than me," said the popular Federer, who is bidding to win his second title in a row after triumphing in Marseille last weekend.
"I'm just getting started now and she'd already achieved so much and just quit.
"She definitely had her reasons with her foot. But if she comes back one day, which maybe she will because hopefully the foot will heal....then I'll be happy and cheering her on."
But with Hingis enjoying her life away from the game, the Federer-led cheering squad is unlikely to surface in the near future, especially since he feels success is not easily appreciated in his country.
"Martina is still very well liked...but of course there was a lot of jealousies because she was so young, so famous, so rich, so good...it's tough for Swiss people to accept that."