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'Federer will come back even stronger'

August 08, 2008 09:46 IST

Roger Federer will come back even stronger from his recent slump and reclaim the world number one spot, according to his close friend and fellow player Dominik Hrbaty.

Swiss Federer is bidding for an Olympic medal in Beijing to make up for what, by his very high standards, has been a barren year.

He lost to Rafael Nadal in the French Open and Wimbledon finals and will be replaced at the top of the rankings by the Spaniard in just over a week.

Federer is suddenly losing to players he used to swat aside in his sleep. Giant Croat Ivo Karlovic was the latest to taste victory against him in Cincinnati last week.

Hrbaty is one of Federer's closest friends on the Tour, memorably sitting and chatting with him on the same side of the umpire's chair during their first-round match at this year's Wimbledon.

He thinks the Beijing Olympics is the moment for Federer to strike back at those calling him a spent force.

"If you are number 10 but you drop to 15 nobody cares but if you are one and you drop to two, it's like 'Oh he's playing bad, maybe it's the end of his career'" Hrbaty told Reuters.

"Many great players like Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl they had the same. If you look at Sampras he was for so long number one then he came back to number one.

"Roger is going to be more relaxed, there is less pressure on him. I don't say he will come back in one or two weeks but for sure he will get back to number one.

"There was huge pressure on him to win Wimbledon, then to stay number one in the world. Nobody else had to experience that kind of pressure. There will be more pressure on Rafa now."

Federer has been putting in intense practice sessions since arriving in Beijing but Hrbaty believes the key is for the Swiss to start playing with freedom.

"The danger is when you start to think too much, then it gets self destructive," added Slovakian Hrbaty, who like Federer is competing in his third Olympics.

"I think he's going to start enjoying the Tour again. With his tennis and talent, he just plays with a feeling, with an impulse. I think he will get even better.

"People say Nadal and (Novak) Djokovic are the favourites here but I think this is going to be his chance. In my mind I think he is going to win it."

Federer plays Russian Dmitry Tursunov in the first round of the tournament which begins on Sunday.

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