Roger Federer has broken almost every record and won every title in tennis, except one: an Olympic gold medal in singles.
In three days, the Swiss right-hander returns to Wimbledon, his most successful Grand Slam tournament where he won a seventh title this month.
The All England Club, which organizes the annual championships, will be hosting the sport at the London Games for the second time in its 135-year history. The Olympic tennis event, won by then-second-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain and the now-retired Elena Dementieva of Russia four years ago in Beijing, starts a day after the opening ceremony on July 28.
“Now Olympic gold is a dream,” Federer, 30, said in an interview at Wimbledon the day after he reduced Andy Murray to tears in the men’s final by beating the fourth-ranked Briton in four sets.
Federer’s win at Wimbledon, his first major title since the 2010 Australian Open, put him back at the top of men’s tennis. Last week, he broke the record for most weeks at No. 1 on the rankings of the ATP World Tour at 287, one more than Pete Sampras.
Although Federer won a gold medal for Switzerland in doubles in Beijing in 2008 with his friend Stanislas Wawrinka, he’s never won any Olympic medal in singles in three appearances. Federer’s best result in singles was fourth at Sydney in 2000. He was knocked out of the quarterfinals in Beijing, and in the second round in Athens in 2004.
Winning doubles gold was “one of my great, great accomplishments of my life,” Federer said.
His success at Wimbledon, where Nadal won’t be defending his title because he’s injured, may give Federer an advantage.
“I am now the Wimbledon champion, and that gives me even more confidence coming to the Olympics,” Federer said. “Maybe in some way, it will take some pressure off. The Olympics is a different animal. You only do get an opportunity every four years, it’s not something us tennis players are quite used to.”
Although tennis was one of the original nine Olympic sports in Athens in 1896, it was withdrawn after the 1924 Paris Games. It returned in Seoul in 1988, when West Germany’s Steffi Graf became the only player to complete the “Golden Slam” -- a Grand Slam sweep topped by the Olympic title.
Murray, who was knocked out of the opening round four years ago in China, sees the Olympics as a fifth Grand Slam.
“I remember Novak Djokovic winning bronze in Beijing and crying on the podium because it meant so much to him, and that’s how us tennis players feel when we’re representing our nations,” Murray said at a news conference at Team GB House last week. “The Wimbledon final was a tough loss, but I had a couple of days off to recover and practice has gone well since.”
Olympic tennis will be a new experience for Maria Sharapova, who won Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17.
The 25-year-old Russian, who won the French Open last month to complete the career Grand Slam, missed out on Beijing because of a shoulder injury that threatened her career.
“I was pretty bummed when I couldn’t play in Beijing,” the third-ranked Sharapova said in an interview. “I was like OK, well the next one is in London, and the next one happens to be where I won Wimbledon.”
Sharapova will carry the Russian flag at the opening ceremony. She said she’s looked forward to competing at the Olympics since she was a young girl.
“Coming from Russia, the Olympics is a huge deal,” she said. “Walking in with all the incredible athletes side by side, it will be an incredible experience.”
Djokovic, ranked No. 2 by the ATP World Tour, will be the flag bearer for Serbia.
“It feels incredible, I remember being at the opening ceremony in Beijing, and how amazing it was to be part of that,” Djokovic, 25, said in an interview.
Like Federer, Djokovic will be staying in a rented house close to Wimbledon rather than at the Olympic Village in East London so he can avoid travel.
“It’s more practical and convenient,” he said. “Traffic is terrible there, but we will go to the Village obviously to feel the atmosphere. I believe the Olympics are the Olympic Village; all the athletes dining together, talking to each other, this is the most valuable experience.”
For Li Na of China, not even an Olympic gold medal would top becoming the first Asian player to win a major singles title at last year’s French Open.
“In China, we have so many gold medals, but only one French Open champion,” Li, 30, said in an interview.
“But still the Olympics are very special for me,” said Li, who lost the bronze medal match in Beijing to Russia’s Vera Zvonareva. “It’s the last year I play for my country.”
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