2018-07-12 18:10:00 CEST
Swiss heritage helping Brandie Wilkerson in Gstaad
For all the cheering on Center Court for home heroes Tanja Hüberli and Nina Betschart, there was another player on court who felt that support in her own unique way.
Unbeknown to the Swiss fans, there was a Swiss-born player on the sand they were cheering against.
Canada’s Brandie Wilkerson was born in Morges – a 90-minute drive from the Gstaad Center Court – but moved to Canada when she was seven.
Her family are always close to her. The 26-year-old blocker has the word ‘Vuilleumier’ – her Swiss family name – tattooed on her left arm, to remind her of her roots in the Alps.
“All my family are from Switzerland and I remember a lot from my time here,” explains Brandie after she and teammate Heather Bansley edged a compelling three-set thriller against Hüberli/Betschart. “French was my first language and Switzerland is and will always be very, very special for me.
“My family are all here, my dad, my brother and grandparents and I’ll spend a week after the tournament with them.
“With the fans cheering for the home crowd I’m always secretly saying they are cheering for me, it’s cool because I know my family are.”
American legend Phil Dalhausser is one example of a Swiss-born player winning a cowbell and taking it back over the Atlantic – but the question is can Brandie follow in the Thin Beast’s footsteps? After a run of form that has taken them to third in the world rankings, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
“We’re definitely in a good rhythm right now and we’re enjoying it because we’ve worked hard,” says Brandie.
“We’re happy that the timing is nice, especially here in Gstaad. Dealing with a home crowd isn’t something new for us. We had it in Czech Republic – so we’re ready for anything.
“It would be special to take one home to Canada but we’re not putting any pressure on ourselves.”
All eyes will now be on Brandie and Heather as they aim to take the Swatch Major Gstaad by storm – and perhaps now they’ll pick a few news fans along the way.