Rio 2016: With Roger Federer and Bencic gone, what's next for team Switzerland?
Only a week away from the commencement of the Rio Olympics 2016, tennis has suffered a major setback.
Team Switzerland were widely pipped to be one of the strongest sides at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with an all-round attack in the men’s and women’s singles and doubles and a mixed doubles team that had the most grand slam titles put together than any other at the Games.
There has been some significantly bad news for fans of the team, with former World No. 1 Roger Federer having announced yesterday he would be withdrawing from the games; the 34-year-old had been due to participate in the singles, play the doubles with Stan Wawrinka, and partner women’s doubles No. 1 Martina Hingis in the mixed doubles – a partnership that had been due to return after a 15-year period.
Given Federer’s frequent injuries, it would not be unrealistic for fans to consider this the Swiss legend’s last real chance at Olympic glory.
Wawrinka and Roger Federer are the only two Swiss players in the ATP top 100, meaning that Federer will now likely be replaced by Marco Chiudinelli, who is at 125th on the ATP World Rankings.
34-year-old Chiudinelli has not had major success on the professional tennis circuit, but was part of the Davis Cup winning Swiss side in 2014; he has also partnered Federer in the doubles to decent effect.
Although Wawrinka and Switzerland will miss out on Federer’s partnership, Chiudinelli has played the doubles with Stan Wawrinka before; the pair played what would eventually be the longest doubles match in ATP history, and the second longest in the singles and doubles combined; the pair would eventually lose to the team of Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol in a 2013 Davis Cup tie against the Czech Republic.
That loss had gone down to the wire, with the Swiss pair losing in a long five-setter.
He has never represented Switzerland at the Olympic Games, however. Although the team setting is not an unfamiliar one for the player, he will be up against some of the best in the sport here, which means that the player will not fancy his chances at the singles.
Ably partnered by Stan Wawrinka, however, he could find doubles success.
Switzerland have taken multiple hits, with top singles hope Belinda Bencic also withdrawing.
The country’s top singles hope, 2015 Rogers Cup champion Bencic is only 19, but has been pipped for even more success on the tennis circuit. The World No. 7 has had a highest fourth round finish at two different Grand Slams, and is a definitive contender for multiple titles in the future.
Leading competitor Julia Boserup at her match at Wimbledon this year, Bencic was sidelined with a wrist injury – the same one that is now preventing her from an Olympic attempt.
Top-20 player TImea Baczinsky is already on the squad; with Bencic’s exit, it is possible that Swiss WTA No. 71 Viktorija Golubic will find a place on the Olympic team instead.
Bacsinszky is no neophyte to the Olympics, having made her debut at the Games in 2008 in Beijing, where she finished in the first round of the women’s singles.
Regardless, she can be an able partner for Martina Hingis at the Games. Golubic is an Olympic debutante, although she has had decent success on the ITF circuit and has also done well for Team Switzerland at the Fed Cup.
The 24-year-old won her career-first WTA title at the recently concluded Swiss Open in Gstaad, which will give her some much needed momentum going into the Olympic Games.
Although there has not yet been confirmation on either decision, it seems likely that Golubic and Chiudinelli will make it into the team; given Golubic is younger and is already on a positive run on the women’s tennis circuit, this may perhaps give the women the advantage given that Bacsinszky is also on the side.
While the men have Olympic doubles gold medallist and two-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka on their side, the Swiss has not had particularly good form this year; ousted by a returning, and unseeded Juan Martin Del Potro, who had been struggling with injury for a number of years and recently returned from rehabilitation following surgery.
Could he put up a strong fight? Wawrinka could go far in the singles, especially considering the likely absence of Rafael Nadal in the singles, although with both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the form of their lives, it looks as though the singles gold medal will be contested between the Serb and the Briton.
Nevertheless, both the men and women will suffer significantly in the absence of two of their best, but the likely women’s replacement is a more than able competitor for the side.