Roger Federer: Switzerland's young gun

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PHILADELPHIA (Sports Network) - I'm guessing by now that most of you are tired of hearing about the "Swiss Miss," Martina why don't we talk about Switzerland's best male player -- the up-and- coming Roger Federer.

The 19-year-old Swiss, he of the speedy serve and monster forehand, is certainly heading places -- if he can learn to construct a point.

Federer, the youngest player in the Top 100, has worked his way up to the 28th ranking in the world, a position, oddly enough, that he shares with another Swiss -- ATP veteran Marc Rosset. They are the only two Swiss players in the Top 50, and are joined by No. 88 George Bastl as the only three Swiss performers in the Top 100. Federer actually placed as high as 16th in the 2000 Champions Race.

Federer's year-end ranking has improved from No. 302 in 1998, to No. 64 in 1999, and now to its current spot of 28.

The young Federer, unlike Hingis, actually hails from Switzerland and has all the makings to become the neutral nation's best-ever player. The Basel native posted a 36-30 match record and corraled $452,504 in prize money in 2000, a year that saw him reach a pair of finals, both of which, unfortunately, he lost. Federer scratched his way to title matches in Marseille and his hometown Basel, losing to Rosset and Thomas Enqvist, respectively. Countryman Rosset prevailed in three sets at the Marseille Open, while Enqvist was pushed to the limit by Federer, who eventually gave way to the veteran Swede in five sets at the Swiss Indoors.

Federer also made some noise at the Olympic Games in Sydney, where he proudly represented his country by soaring to the semifinals, where he lost to another young gun, German Tommy Haas. Federer then succumbed to Frenchman Arnaud Di Pasquale in the bronze medal match, settling for fourth place.

The 6-1, 177-pound Federer, who turned pro in 1998, also made a respectable showing at three of the four Grand Slam events in 2000. He advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros and moved into third-rounders at Melbourne and Flushing Meadows. Federer's worst Slam performance came at Wimbledon, where Top-10 fixture Yevgeny Kafelnikov dismissed the aggressive Swiss in the opening round. Either way, Federer improved upon his 1999 Grand Slam showings, when he bowed out in first-rounders at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

Federer posted some huge personal wins in 2000, including a surprising Davis Cup victory against hard-serving Australian Mark Philippoussis in Zurich back in February. The spry Swiss also upset German Nicolas Kiefer in London, stunned French Open runner-up Magnus Norman of Sweden and 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands in Vienna, and toppled the brilliant young Aussie Lleyton Hewitt in the Basel tourney.

Roger is young enough and promising enough to be included in the ATP's popular "New Balls Please" campaign, designed to promote the game's hottest young stars. The teenager is part of a stellar group that also features the likes of U.S. Open champion Marat Safin, French Open titlist Gustavo Kuerten, Hewitt and Norman.

In 1999, Federer broke through to become the youngest player (18 years, 4 months) to finish in the Top 100, climbing more than 200 spots in the process.

The righthanded Federer enjoyed an outstanding career as a junior, finishing as the No. 1 junior in the world in 1998. That same year, after losing to the great Andre Agassi in the first round in Basel, the American said of Federer: "He can really play. He has a real presence on-court and is only going to get better."

Federer has a good game for most surfaces, but he'll need to improve upon his lackluster 3-7 performance on clay in 2000. The Swiss failed to defeat any of the sport's top players on his least- favorite surface.

Despite losing his final match of 2000 -- a straight-set defeat at the hands of tough, young Swede Andreas Vinciguerra in Stockholm -- Federer will head into 2001 with a great deal of optimism. Expect the athletic Swiss to breakthrough with his first-ever ATP title -- and then some -- next season, which gets underway in less than a month (on New Year's Day).

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