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Schnyder Discusses Decision to Team With Guru

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The interview with 20-year-old Swiss tennis star Patty Schnyder and her 42-year-old German guru, Rainer Harnecker, would not have been complete without fruit salad all around.

They ate fruit Tuesday during a session of interviews at Grand Champions Resort. When one round was completed, he kissed her and bounded off, returning with a huge bowl of fruit. Without fresh squeezed orange juice around--he has her drinking two to three liters a day--this was the next best thing.

Her alliance with the self-styled guru has kept her at the center of a storm in Switzerland, starting last month after she moved out of her parents’ home, fired her coach and dumped her longtime boyfriend.

Before coming to Indian Wells, she and Harnecker went on Swiss TV and announced they were a couple, and then once here, she got rid of her other longtime trainer. Finally, Schnyder lost, 6-1, 6-3, in the round of 16 at the Evert Cup to Martina Hingis on Monday.

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“I was having a hard time the last six weeks,” Schnyder said. “It was a long time. First, I was hoping my parents would accept it, hoping the other people would accept what I am doing.

“I just lost my hope and I just do what I think is right for me. They treat me like a little kid. They said, ‘If you work with this person, the door is closed.’ ”

Harnecker is under investigation in Germany for alleged violations of practicing medicine without a legally required permit but said he is unconcerned. He claimed he can cure cancer and AIDS with his methods, according to a former tennis protege, Sylvia Plischke of Austria.

Tuesday, Harnecker made no assertions about curing AIDS. He said his system involves “nutrition and movement.”

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“When you know what the body has to do, then you can bring cancer away when the patient wants it,” he said.

Schnyder did not buy into Harnecker’s approach when she met him in Spain last year. So, what did she think of him at first?

“That he’s crazy,” she said, laughing. “Really. I think why do I have to meet such a guy? Sylvia [Plischke] met him and she tried it right away. She was really convinced. I was saying, ‘Stupid.’ I watched from really far away, really far.”

Harnecker said he had his doubts once. “I think I arrive [at theories], I think I drive on the wrong road,” he said.

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Eventually, they became a couple. The more opposition Schnyder faced, the closer it brought them, she said. He said he does not consider himself a doctor, nor a Scientologist. What he does have is deep distrust of conventional medicine.

“I read a lot of books,” he said. “I go to the university and listen to a lot of medical [stuff]. They said, ‘You are stupid. You sit down there.’ Everybody who studies medical is like this, ‘Hi! I’m God.’ ”

Schnyder is openly fascinated by his theories, which he tends to expound at length. And he is not lacking in confidence to take care of health problems, even of a new acquaintance, saying: “If your back gets worse, give me a call.”


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