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Rediff.com  » Sports » Federer seeks golden tonic in Beijing

Federer seeks golden tonic in Beijing

July 25, 2008 10:55 IST

Roger Federer's crown has lost its lustre and a shiny medal of Olympic gold would be very welcome for the king of men's tennis.

After being thrashed by Rafael Nadal in the French Open final, the Swiss maestro lost again at Wimbledon to the Spaniard who won a five-set epic on Federer's Centre Court fortress.

The world number one turns 27 on the day of the Beijing opening ceremony and he will have to rediscover his A-game after also suffering a surprise defeat in the Toronto Masters to France's Gilles Simon.

Nadal is again lurking in the strongest field at an Olympic tournament since it returned to the Games in 1988.

The top five men in the world and seven of the top 10 women will gather in Beijing. Women's champion Justine Henin retired this year and Amelie Mauresmo, silver medallist in Athens, is also absent, with an injury.

Wimbledon champion Venus and sister Serena will start as favourites to emulate their domination in Sydney eight years ago when Venus won the singles and then teamed up with her "little" sister to win the doubles.

"I love the Olympics," Venus said at Wimbledon where she claimed her seventh grand slam title by beating Serena.

"To add to my medal would be amazing. It's probably bigger than a slam, I think so, definitely."

The highlights of Federer's two previous Olympic Games amount to meeting his long-standing girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec in Sydney and carrying the Swiss flag at the opening ceremony in Athens four years ago.

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In 2000 he lost a semi-final to Tommy Haas and then let a bronze medal slip through his fingers against Frenchman Arnaud Di Pasquale. Four years later he lost in the second round to Tomas Berdych.

"Last time was quite disappointing, losing in the second round but nevertheless, going there was one of the biggest experiences in life," the Swiss said in Toronto this week.

More used to staying in fancy hotels, Federer appreciates the special vibe of the Olympic Village and says winning gold in Beijing would be one of the highlights of his career. It could also be his last chance.

Nadal said recently Beijing was his third priority behind the French Open and Wimbledon. With those two in the bag this year, the 22-year-old will be going full tilt next month.

Despite a hard DecoTurf surface that does not compliment his game as well as clay or grass, nobody will be better prepared for the blast-furnace heat expected in Beijing than the dynamic Spaniard who could oust Federer from the top spot by 2009.

The surface suits world number three Novak Djokovic of Serbia as he demonstrated at Indian Wells this year.

"It's my dream to play at the Olympics," said Djokovic, who is expected to carry the Serbian flag at the opening ceremony in his first Games. "It unites all athletes from around the world, it's very special."

Reigning champion Nicolas Massu, who also partnered Fernando Gonzales to victory in the doubles in 2004, needed a special ITF invite and is unlikely to last long.

Zheng Jie's run to the women's semi-finals at Wimbledon has stoked home hopes of Chinese success. Zheng won the Wimbledon and Australian Open doubles titles in 2006 with long-time partner Yan Zi and will be aiming to repeat the feat of Athens gold medallists Sun Tiantian and Li Ting.

Serbia have high hopes for women's world number one Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic while Russia have a formidable quartet of Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina.

Martyn Herman