Up until 1988, with only two exceptions, tennis wasn't invited at the Olympics. Since then, the little yellow ball has caught up, with great champions like Agassi or Nadal taking Olympic gold. For the 2012 edition, the cast is worthy of a Grand Slam. Amongst all the stars attending, Roger Federer looks like the boss. And moreover because the tournament will take place on the Wimbledon grass.
The favourite: Roger Federer
He's world number one, he’s just won Wimbledon for the 7th time and looks down on the rest of the tennis world from the height of his seventeenth Grand Slam title. Yes, Roger Federer is the boss. So obviously, playing an Olympic tournament on English grass seems like a great present for the Swiss champion. He knows it. He even accepts his status. “Novak (Djokovic, Editor's note) says I’m the favourite. I’ve beaten him at Wimbledon (in semi-finals, editor’s note) by playing really well, I’m n°1, so yes, I can be considered as the favourite. But this tournament is different from Wimbledon, the first rounds are tricky”. To be honest, any result other than a gold medal would be considered as a failure for the player from Basel. He is playing it down though, saying that “it’s not easier than at Wimbledon, it’s even harder, because the matches will be played in two-out-of-three sets. That will narrow the gap between the players. I’m aware of that. But winning Wimbledon also boosted my confidence”. Should Roger already be crowned? Nearly.
Let's be honest, the level of the men's tournament is high, really high. Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Ferrer, Tsonga, Del Potro, Tipsarevic, Isner, etc. The seeds are quite impressive. And so are the outsiders like Roddick, Nalbandian, Davydenko, Simon, Baghdatis or even Hewitt. The Olympic tournament has no reason to be jealous of the Grand Slams or Masters 1000. Well, yes, the two winning sets might not allow matches to be as exceptional as best-of-five encounters, but the quality of the players has enough to make our mouths water. Especially because, on Wimbledon's grass, the attacking players will arrive as favourites.
The same name keeps coming back: Rafael Nadal. The left-handed champion who should have been the standard beaver of the Spanish delegation got injured just before the Olympics. So as not to ruin his season, Rafa decided to watch the tournament from his couch. He announced it in a laconic statement: “I’m not fit to play and defend my title. It's one of the saddest days of my career. But I cannot be selfish and I need to think of the best interests of Spanish sport. I can't take the place of someone who is better prepared and able to take his chances. I've waited until the last minute to announce it". The Spaniard was the Olympic titleholder and promised a great fight with Federer and Djokovic. We will also regret the foot injury of the Croatian Ivo Karlovic a week before the start of the Olympics. A little earlier in the month that was the Frenchman Gael Monfils who had to give up, after failing to recover in time from a serious injury.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After failing in the final of Wimbledon a little over a month ago, Andy Murray gets another chance to taste victory at the All England Club. "I want to try and win a gold medal, win the tournament" he said. "If I play like I did at Wimbledon, I won't be far off." But he faces a tough draw, with possible matches against players like Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic on his way before a possible rematch with Federer in the final. "Everyone said the Wimbledon draw was unbelievably tough so it doesn't make any difference.” Let’s hope for a different outcome if he makes it to the final.
Malek Jaziri is 29. His particularity? He's the sole representative of an Arabic country in the world top 100. Even better, since the Tunisian Revolution, Malek is starting to spread his wings. On ESPN, he admitted that the mess in his country galvanized him: “the revolution helped me so much. After it, I started to play well. You feel free. You feel that the dictator is gone for good. You can do whatever you want, you can say whatever you want.” Moreover, Malek experienced the Tunisian uprising first-hand. Injured at the time, he went to Tunis to get treatment and witnessed Tunis going up in flames. To kick off nicely his Olympic tournament, Malek will have to take the scalp of Lu Yen-Hsun. Before challenging John Isner…
“I’m excited the Olympics are on grass as it’s a surface that I favour,” Roddick told the media in London. I’ve been looking forward to it. I’m curious to see what it will feel like. It’s two-out-of-three sets until the final. A two-out-of-three set on grass is a crapshoot, so I’m excited. Anything goes there.”
Andy Roddick, despite being far from in top shape, is showing confidence before the tournament. The reason for it: his hammer service, a great weapon on grass.
The ATP dotation: 750 points for the gold medal, 450 for the silver one, and 340 for the bronze.