Tennis: Schnyder puts personal trouble behind her to reach Aussie Open semis

Channel News Asia/January 28, 2004

Melbourne, Australia -- Patty Schnyder's hard road back from career-threatening personal troubles swept her into the semi-finals of a Grand Slam event for the first time at the Australian Open.

The 22nd seed from Switzerland displayed greater composure to out-fox giant-killing Lisa Raymond 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 in 1hr 19min.

A jittery Raymond, who had pulled off the biggest upset of the women's draw by knocking Venus Williams out in the third round, saw her challenge unravel with 44 unforced errors on the Rod Laver Arena.

"It's enormous. I'm so happy to be here and to play in the semis, it's hard to describe," said a delighted Schnyder, whose previous best Grand Slam performances were quarter-final appearances at the 1998 French and US Opens.

Schnyder will now face Belgian second seed Kim Clijsters in the semi-finals.

It was a hugely satisfying victory for Schnyder, whose form and rankings tumbled in early 1999 following a disastrous association with German guru Rainer Harnecker.

The player's parents accused Harnecker of brainwashing their daughter and ultimately barred her from the Schnyder family home after she refused to end her relationship with the faith healer.

Schnyder split from Harnecker in 1999 and her rankings have subsequently climbed. In a twist to the saga, Schnyder married a private investigator hired by her father to investigate Harnecker.

But her choice of husband also infuriated her family, who did not attend the couple's wedding.

Schnyder said she had never been happier after her quarter-final win.

"I'm very happy with my husband, we married a month ago and everything is just fine," said Schnyder, 25.

"I'm really enjoying tennis. I love the sport, coming out playing especially in the Grand Slams -- it's very nice to have such a life."

Schnyder shaded the first set after fighting back from a break down at 6-5 to force a tie-break after Raymond failed to hold when serving for the set.

Schnyder then romped through the tie-break 7/2 with Raymond's game disintegrating rapidly, the American's flawless form of earlier rounds deserting her.

Schnyder broke to take a 1-0 lead in the second set before holding for 2-0.

Raymond scored a morale-boosting break in the eighth game to cut the deficit to 5-3, but again failed to hold when serving to stay in the match, Schnyder sealing victory when a backhand from the American found the net.

Raymond was disconsolate in defeat and the 30-year-old acknowledged she may never have a better chance of reaching a Grand Slam semi-final.

"I don't think that I've been this disappointed losing a match," Raymond said. "I really thought that I had a good shot of really having a breakthrough here. It was a huge opportunity for her. She maybe handled it better than I."

Raymond said the turning point had been getting broken when serving for the first set. "To finally get in the position to serve for the set and to lose it was disappointing. I maybe let that affect me a little bit," said Raymond.

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