Beijing Olympics 2008: four weeks to go, Pt.1
Originally published on: 26/02/10 14:14
Kicking off in four weeks time, the Beijing Olympics tennis championship is set to showcase the strongest mens field in the events history, with 17 of the worlds top 20 players confirming their participation.
Only Andy Roddick and Richard Gasquet have decided to miss the tournament, while Fernando Verdasco is ineligible, as he is the fifth qualified Spaniard.
Fed and Nadal dream of title
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are both dreaming of Olympic glory. The best two players in tennis will most likely be seeded to meet in the final of the Olympic tournament in Beijing next month.
Federer only made it to the second round at the 2004 Olympics, but believes he can reach the podium this time around.
“It would mean as much as a Grand Slam in my situation right now.” – Roger Federer
“I am dreaming about the gold medal because being the number one in the world for so long I have chances on my side, said the beleaguered world No.1. So I hope I can do well and reach my dreams over there.
“It would mean as much as a Grand Slam in my situation right now.”
But Nadal insists an Olympic gold medal would not be as special as the Wimbledon title he won on Sunday. The Spaniard doesn’t feel the same kind of pressure going into the Games, simply saying that he will try his best.
“I think the Olympics comes after a Grand Slam. It is different for everybody but that is my opinion.”
Defending champion returns
Joining them in the draw will be 2004 champion Nicolas Massu, after the Chilean tennis federation confirmed the 28-year-old has received a wildcard into the event.
Massu also won a gold medal in the doubles in Athens with Fernando Gonzalez, who will also play in Beijing. The pair are the only two Chileans to win Olympic golds.
But in the past four years, Massu has slipped to 131 in the world rankings, which initially put his participation in doubt.
“It’s my dream to end my career with an Olympic medal for Sweden.” Jonas Bjorkman
“I’m always glad to represent my country, he said. Playing for Chile is always a top priority for me, especially because of the great memories I have from four years ago.”
Massu was among 6 mens wildcard entries for Beijing, along with Jonas Bjorkman, Max Mirnyi, Kevin Anderson, Kei Nishikori and Chinas Peng Sun.
“Each of the players who has been awarded an ITF place brings special qualities to the field,” ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti explained.
“Some of the players are young competitors from underrepresented parts of the world, while others are former medalists or long-standing participants in their country’s Davis Cup efforts.”
The 36-year-old Bjorkman, who said last week he’ll retire in October, competed at the Olympics in singles and doubles in both 1996 and 2004.
“It’s my dream to end my career with an Olympic medal for Sweden,” a thrilled Bjorkman said. The 36-year-old, who will be playing in his third Olympic tennis event, has announced that he will retire in October.
Brothers in arms
Andy and Jamie Murray are keeping the British Olympic tennis team in the family, Andy playing in the singles and joining Jamie in the doubles. Mother Judy Murray believes that the siblings previous experience on court together could make the difference in Beijing.
“It’s something any athlete would want to be a part of.” – Jamie Murray
“They work well together,” the LTA’s talent and performance director for Scotland explained. “We have one right-hander, Andy, and a lefty in Jamie. Andy’s strengths are his return and his solid groundstrokes, while Jamie has his volleys and overheads.
Jamie for one is looking forward to representing his country on the world stage. “Our entry is confirmed and that’s something any athlete would want to be a part of because it’s the pinnacle,” he said.
Andy and I will look forward to going. It’s exciting to play for your country and to play together on such a big stage.”
ITF/Beijing Olympic tennis entrants