In 1996, Schnyder made her Grand Slam main-draw debut at the French Open. In 1997, she quickly rose up through the rankings, and by August 1998 she had entered the WTA top 10. However, Schnyder fell out of the top 10 in April 1999, and spent the next six years ranked in the 15–30 range before re-entering the top 10 in May 2005.
In December 2003, Schnyder married Rainer Hofmann, who had accompanied her on the WTA tour since 1999 and became her full-time tennis coach in early 2003.
Schnyder won 11 singles titles, including a victory in Zürich (Tier I Event) over American former no.1 Lindsay Davenport, and 5 doubles titles. Her first title on U.S. soil came in August, 2005, when she won at Cincinnati's Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open. Schnyder is perhaps best known for defeating 4 top-10 players consecutively, including Serena Williams and then-world no.1 Jennifer Capriati, in 2002 at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, which is the largest women-only tennis event held in the United States.
Schnyder's best Grand Slam performance came at the 2004 Australian Open, where she reached the semifinals, before falling to Kim Clijsters. Later that season, she also reached the semifinals at the Tier 1 tournaments in Charleston and Zurich, two large WTA events where Schnyder has compiled an excellent record through the years.
2005 was Schnyder's most consistent overall season to date. She reached five tour finals, winning two of them (Gold Coast and Cincinnati, both Tier 3 events). She was runner-up at the Tier I events Rome (to Amélie Mauresmo) and Zurich (to Lindsay Davenport). She also reached the final in Linz (Tier 2), falling to Nadia Petrova. She reached the career high of world no. 7 after the end-of-season WTA Tour Championships.
2006 proved to be a good season for Schnyder also, staying within the top 10 and reaching the finals in Charleston (defeating top seed and defending champion Justine Henin in the semifinalss and also ending Henin's 2- match winning streak on clay, though Schnyder lost to Petrova in the final), and in Stanford (falling to top seed and defending champion Kim Clijsters).
Schnyder had a mediocre year in 2007, where she lost her top-10 ranking. First, she obtained an invitation to play in the 2007 Watsons Water Champions Challenge. She reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, where she lost to Anna Chakvetadze, 4-6, 1-6, after leading 4–1 in the first set. At the French Open, she managed to reach the fourth round, where she had two match points against Maria Sharapova, but ended up losing, 6–3, 4–6, 7–9. At Wimbledon, she was beaten in the fourth round by no. 1 Justine Henin, 2-6, 2-6. At the Acura Classic in July, she reached the final, beating former no. 1 and compatriot Martina Hingis, 6–1, 6–7(4), 6–3, and Russian Elena Dementieva, 7–6, 6–0, along the way, before losing to Sharapova again in three sets, 2–6, 6–3, 0–6. Schnyder briefly moved up due to this. However, at the US Open, she lost in the third round to the unseeded Austrian Tamira Paszek in a final set tie break, again wasting leads. After that, she played at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she fell 0–6, 2–6 to Ana Ivanovic. She finished her year with a run to the Generali Ladies Linz final, beating Chakvetadze 6–1, 6–0 in the quarterfinals and Marion Bartoli 7–6, 6–3 in the semifinals, before convincingly losing in the final to Hantuchová, 4–6, 2–6.
Schnyder began 2008 by beating Amélie Mauresmo in the quarterfinals of the Mondial Women's Hardcourts tournament in the Gold Coast before losing to Li Na in the semifinals. At the Australian Open, she lost in the second round to Australian Casey Dellacqua, 6–4, 5–7, 6–8. She then lost in the second round of the Proximus Diamond Games to eventual finalist Karin Knapp, losing in a final-set tiebreak. She entered the Qatar Total Open and beat Paszek easily, 6–4, 6–0. She lost to Slovakia's Dominika Cibulková in the second round, 4-6, 3-6. Schnyder then competed in the Bangalore Open, a Tier II event in Bangalore, India. She defeated Akgul Amanmuradova, 4–6, 6–4, 7–6, in the quarterfinals, and then managed to beat Zi Yan, 6–3, 6–4, in the semifinal. However, she lost to Serena Williams, 5–7, 3–6, in the final.
Schnyder again lost to Casey Dellacqua at Wimbledon in the first round. She played an epic match, but lost 4–6, 6–3, 1–6.
Alongside Emmanuelle Gagliardi, Schnyder played for her team in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
At the US Open, Schnyder was seeded 15th. She beat Katarina Srebotnik in the fourth round to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in 10 years, where she lost to fifth seeded Elena Dementieva.
At the 2008 Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic, Schnyder won her first title in over three years when she defeated Tamira Paszek in the final, 6–3, 6–0.
At the 2009 Madrid Masters, Schnyder defeated world no. 10 Nadia Petrova in the third round and world no. 4 Jelena Janković, 7–6(6), 6–3, in the quarterfinals, but lost to world no. 1 Dinara Safina in the semifinals, 4–6, 2–6.
2010 was a tough year for Patty. For the first time since 1996, she did not play in the Australian Open, due to injury. But, for the second year in a row, she did make it to the final in Budapest against Ágnes Szávay, but again lost. She lost two match points in the third round of the US Open and double-faulted on match point against Yanina Wickmayer. She again made her second final of the year in Linz, but suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Ana Ivanovic.
Schnyder did not play at the beginning of the 2011 season, prior to the 2011 Australian Open, due to illness. At the Australian Open, she lost to the qualifier Lesya Tsurenko in the first round. In a March 2011 Bleacher report, Schnyder was listed as one of ten most underrated players on the WTA Tour. Schnyder signaled, after disappointing first-round losses in both singles and doubles at the Family Circle Cup, that she would indeed be retiring sometime that year. Schnyder proved in April that she was still Switzerland's no. 1 women's tennis player when she, along with Timea Bacsinszky, helped propel Switzerland back into World Group II at the Fed Cup. She announced her retirement in May 2011.
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