Gold medal will add to Federer’s sweet Olympic memories

August 7th, 2008 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Roger Federer
By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 7 (IANS) The Olympics have always meant a lot to Roger Federer. But this time around, it could mean more than ever before. For one, it refreshes happy memories of having met his girlfriend, Mirka Vavrinec, at the Sydney Games in 2000. In Athens he carried the Swiss flag. And this time, he does it again on the day he celebrates his 27th birthday. But the biggest gift he would like for his birthday is an Olympic gold medal. This after all has been one of his worst years in last five years. Not one Grand Slam and he is also due to lose his No. 1 spot to Rafael Nadal in 10 days time.

The Swiss champion will be playing in his third Olympics but is still looking for his first medal.

Yes, he wants nothing more than an Olympic gold right now.

The Rafa-Roger clash, if it happens, may well be one of the highlights of the Beijing Olympic Games and it could also mean a last chance for Federer to salvage something memorable from a season, which by his lofty standards has been less than modest.

Last night it was Nadal meeting the media and the numbers were huge and Thursday afternoon, it was Federer’s turn to be on centre-stage.

Federer officially still holds the tag of World number 1, though that honour will pass onto Nadal August 18. One of the early questions was expectedly on his ranking and when asked if he still felt like No. 1, the Swiss star answered somewhat laconically: “I guess until the ranking changes in the computer, I do, yeah.”

Federer like a true champion was not shy admitting that he has been struggling this season. “The last couple of weeks haven’t been the best,” admitted Federer, who held his No. 1 ranking 236 weeks.

“I think I lost matches I should never have lost. So in a way, they hurt, but at the same time I did not play bad by losing, which is obviously important.”

But the Olympic Games hold great memories for Federer. It was at the Sydney Games that Federer first met Vavrinec, his girfriend of last eight years who was also representing Switzerland in tennis.

So, when Federer was asked, what was his best Olympic moment, he laughed as he said,

“Meeting my girlfriend at the Olympic Games was also a highlight in my career. Carrying the flag was another highlight. I don’t know what’s nicer, but I guess it was meeting the girlfriend because we’ve been together for eight years, whereas the flag was only there for 10 minutes.”

Federer, however, will spend only a brief time in the athletes’ village. He plans to visit it, but will not stay there during the Games.

“I’m going there once in a while to see the other Swiss athletes and get the Olympic feel. I was there the other day and it’s not possible, really. I cannot escape. There are so many athletes who want pictures. I don’t mind it, but every day for I don’t know how long, it’s not the ideal preparation for trying to win a gold medal,” he said, realising his status as one of the most high-profile athletes at these Games.

And what about re-claiming his No. 1 spot?

“Sure, I think it’s possible,” he said. “If I want my Number 1 ranking back in a couple of weeks, I’ve got to play rock-solid for the rest of the year. That means winning many tournaments. I know I can do it, because I’ve done it in the past for many seasons now. I hope I can do it. Otherwise, I think I can get it back in 2009. It’s all speculation. We’ll see what happens.”

On his rivalry with Nadal, he said, “I think our rivalry is great for tennis right now. It’s not just Wimbledon… He’s only 22. I’m only turning 27, so I have a feeling we’re going to play 20 more times. It should be great for the next generation as well.

“It’s good to have rivalries because I didn’t have maybe that many rivals in the last four years. I’ve had rivals on and off but I think with (Nadal), there’s something special to it because we’ve already played six times in Grand Slam finals. We have very different characters, but it’s very much on the fair-play side, which I think is very nice for not only tennis, but for sports in general.”

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