Federer hoping for Olympic boost
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Roger Federer is hoping for an Olympic Games performance that can help him regain his top ranking, set to transfer to Rafael Nadal.
Roger Federer faces a pivotal moment in his season at the Beijing Olympics, where he will begin his battle to reclaim both the top ranking and the reputation that once made him untouchable.
Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic headline a Grand Slam field but the Swiss appears a diminished force with the Spaniard set to end his record run as number one on August 18.
With the trio equal favourites for gold, men's tennis now has a 'Big Three,' rather than just one.
"Roger has actually looked human for the last two months or so, so it's given us all hope there," commented US number one James Blake.
Federer crashed out in tears in round two four years ago and has attached huge importance to the Olympics. At the age of 10, he watched Swiss countryman Marc Rosset land gold in Barcelona.
But this year's tournament has added significance after his 11 defeats this season, including French Open and Wimbledon final losses to the rampant Nadal.
"People expect more from me after a very good last five years. Obviously this or the US Open would save my season but I'm just concentrating on this now," said Federer, who turns 27 on Friday.
Nadal, 22, is riding a wave of success that made him the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win both Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same season, demolishing Federer in Paris and edging him in an epic five-setter four weeks later in London.
His astonishing rise from little-known doubles player at the last Olympics, to man of the moment here, will be capped the day after the final when computer rankings confirm him as the best in the world.
"To be world number one is a great thing, I've battled over many years to achieve it and it will be great, but I've got no time to enjoy it," Nadal said.
"I want to live the Olympic experience and enjoy that."
Djokovic and Andy Murray, fresh from beating the Serb in the Cincinatti final, lead a strong chasing pack with Andy Roddick the only top-10 absentee.
However, reputations have counted for little at the Olympics whose unique conditions have generated a history of upsets and unlikely winners.
"In this atmosphere it's similar to the Davis Cup where crazy things can happen and guys can lose if people are having off days or playing great. I have a feeling that could happen here," said Blake.
"If you look at the gold and silver medallists from the last Olympics, (Nicolas) Massu and Mardy Fish, it shows anything can happen at these Games."
Massu, who is also defending his doubles crown with Fernando Gonzalez, said all the pressure was on the top three.
"I'm here to prove again that I can do the same but it's so difficult. Ask Federer and Nadal if it's easy or not," said the Chilean.
"So I think they have more pressure than me. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer, they are the favourites."
Federer has a tricky opener against Dmitry Tursunov but has otherwise received a kindly draw with Gonzalez, Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer the main threats in the top half.
Nadal will start against Potito Starace before facing Murray in the quarter-finals for the likely prize of a semi against Djokovic.
The tournament starts on Sunday in the all-new, lotus-themed Olympic Green Tennis Centre, which seats 10,000 in its open-air main arena.