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Updated: June 20, 2010 20:30 IST

Federer concentrates on tennis amid Swiss football fever

DPA
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Switzerland's Roger Federer in action during his second round match against Sweden's Robin Soderling on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, in 2008.
AP Switzerland's Roger Federer in action during his second round match against Sweden's Robin Soderling on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, in 2008.

Swiss star Roger Federer will have absolutely no problem keeping his mind focussed on his opening match as defending champion at Wimbledon Monday while his fellow national footballers simultaneously bid for a second victory at the World Cup.

The top seed will take to the grass against Colombian Alejandro Falla on Centre court just two hours before kickoff of the Chile-Switzerland Group H match in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

The underdog Swiss are seeking to follow up on last week’s 1-0 upset win against Spain. But Federer will not be distracted, despite his massive interest in the outcome of a football match that is being played in the land of his mother’s birth.

“You think I’ll just, like, leave the court at 3 pm?” he joked. “That’s not going to happen quite yet. Maybe I can install a little screen on Centre Court on the change of ends.” Wimbledon, in keeping with its emphasis on tradition, is doing everything possible to keep the “corrupting” football influence out of the grounds, going so far as to ban match telecasts — even England’s — on big screens at the venue.

But six-time champion Federer says he will easily keep his full focus on his task at hand as he faces number 65 Falla for the fourth time at a Grand Slam and the third time this year (4-0 overall to the Swiss).

“It’s happened in the past that I’ve had to play matches during important things in my life. I went on court last year many times thinking that Mirka was going to give birth to my children,” said the six-time winner, who is bidding to level with Pete Sampras on seven trophies.

“That was a bit more crazy than Switzerland playing at 3 pm. I still have a chance to maybe go see a little bit.” The former Basel youth player was happy to reveal that his connection with the Swiss national team runs deep.

In fact, he has give a short inspirational talk to the squad and regularly exchanges text messages with coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.

“When he called me and said if I could just come in and meet the team, inspire them a bit, answer questions on how I handle the media, how I handle the pressure, see the guys a bit, I said, No problem.

If my schedule allows it, I’m very happy to do that. “I came in and I don’t think they’ve lost since. If it’s 1 percent (credit) they give to me, that’s great.

“But they were good enough themselves. They know it. I told them that. It’s in their control, as well, to some degree. It was a good experience for me anyway and I’m happy it worked.” The tennis king knows that football will always be the top sports in his homeland despite his historic run in tennis.

“Football is very big, as are skiing and ice hockey and tennis. It was nice seeing pictures of Switzerland going crazy over a win like this. We all know we will talk about this win against Spain for 20 years. Very often in the World Cup you only get maybe three matches to shine, and we were able to do it on the first one. This was amazing. I wish them obviously all the best. It’s great, a great start for us.”

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