Tennis stars gear up for Beijing Olympics

July 29th, 2008 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Rafael Nadal
Beijing, July 29 (Xinhua) With Beijing Olympics barely ten days away, top tennis players of the world are gearing to give their best in the quadrennial event. The Spaniards, who has claimed gold medals in every Olympics ever since the sport was reintroduced in 1988, have been peaking at the right time.

Rafael Nadal this year won his first title at Masters Series Hamburg, his fourth successive Roland Garros title and his first grass-court title at Queen’s Club, and most importantly, the Wimbledon where he beat Swiss world number one Roger Federer in an epic match.

His winning streak extended to Toronto Masters whereas women’s doubles team Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual took the Slovenia Open last week.

The 22-year-old Nadal, who has ranked No. 2 for a record 157 weeks, will become the new No. 1 next Sunday if he wins the title at the Masters series in Cincinnati and Federer loses before the semi-finals.

“Every player wants to be No. 1. I am No. 2 right now because in front of me there is an amazing player like Roger (Federer),” said Nadal, having played men’s doubles with Carlos Moya at Athens four years ago.

Nadal, will head a strong Spanish line-up including fourth-ranked David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro (12th) and Tommy Robredo (16th). Nadal will also play doubles with Robredo.

“Well, it’s always a special tournament, and there are special feelings because you are representing your country. You are in the Olympic Village, so it’s always very nice to be with the rest of the sportsmen of the world,” Nadal told the ITF’s official website.

With 29 straight wins since early May, Nadal has become a strong favourite for the men’s title.

In contrast, Federer’s crown has lost its lustre and an Olympic gold would be greatly welcomed by the king of men’s tennis.

The world number one turns 27 on the day of the Beijing opening ceremony and he will have to rediscover his game.

“The bigger picture is the Olympic Games and the US Open. Those are the places where I want to win,” Federer told ATP’s official website.

Federer in 2000 Olympics lost the semi-final to Tommy Haas and then let a bronze medal slip 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 last week.

Serbia have high Olympic hopes from women’s world number one Ana Ivanovic and number two Jelena Jankovic while Russia has a formidable quartet of Maria Sharapova (3rd), Svetlana Kuznetsova (4th), Elena Dementieva (6th) and Dinara Safina (8th).

The Williams sisters, who have claimed the Wimbledon singles and doubles, are still suffering the injury woes but will be hoping to recover in time for the Olympics.

Chinese ace Zheng Jie’s run to the women’s semifinals at Wimbledon has stoked 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.

Countries are allowed a maximum of six players in the Olympic tournament with no more than four in the singles. They are allowed two doubles pairs.

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