Preveiwing the 2012 London Olympics Men’s Tennis Event

July 26, 2012 · Print This Article

by: Nima Naderi

If we learned anything from the events that occurred in Beijing or Athens, it was that upsets can come at an abundance during the Olympics. The best three out of five set format (except for this year’s final) allows the 64 competitors an equal opportunity for medal glory. Although the last gold medal winner in singles went to a premier player in Rafael Nadal, the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have yet to taste any success in the singles format.

With defending Gold medal winner Nadal out of this year’s event with a knee injury, the spotlight will surely turn to the top three seeds. Entering Wimbledon with his seventh title earlier this month, Federer could fulfill a life-long dream in capping off his legendary career with the top prize. Federer has the luxury of competing at the Olympics this year on his favorite stomping ground and anything short of a victory would surely be viewed as a disappointment. Djokovic, who will enter SW19 as the second seed, has endured a significant dip in form compared to last year, but his focus and ability remain second to none. If we’re talking about a player with the ultimate motivation to succeed and win titles, I’d have to say that Djokovic remains tops in that category.

What can we expect from Murray after a crushing and heart-felt loss to Federer in early July? The Scot gave everything he had to claiming his first slam title, but once again was outplayed by a bigger hitting foe. For me, Murray has a real shot at taking home a medal this year, but only if he plays with the same urgency that the roof and rain presented to him over the recent fortnight. Murray would be able to remedy his latest defeat with some hardware around his neck, but there’s no doubt that he’ll have to smack his groundstrokes and play with intent to be successful.

How about the chances of Tsonga, David Ferrer and Milos Raonic? The trio includes some of the best serving and returning in the world, but also the ability to falter when the pressure increases. Tsonga reached another semifinal in London before his serve and intensity went south in a hurry; Ferrer has had a great year but still misses that killer win in a big event to make him a bona-fide contender; and finally, Raonic, who holds the biggest serve in the game, has taken a few steps back on the grass after recording a respectable clay-court season.

With a variety of different factors to consider this year like the roof, temperature and balls, the Gold medal winner could very well be a name that we’re not used to Tweeting about during the final Sunday. Nicolas Massu, anyone?

Let’s now take a look at the top and bottom halves of the men’s singles draw.

Top Half:

No Nadal means that Federer will be without with his arch rival in a big event for the first time since the 2009 Wimbledon Championships. Having the top ranking beside his name and representing Switzerland at his favorite event should provide Federer with every inch of motivation he needs to top off his career. Landing in a half which includes Ferrer, Isner, del Potro and Tipsarevic, Federer will begin his campaign against Alejandro Falla. The Colombian led Federer by two sets to love during the first-round of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships before faltering.

To be quite honest here, this is Federer’s half to win or lose. We’ve seen him fall to Berdych, Blake and Arnaud Di Pasquale in previous Olympics, but if he were to go down early here—on his favorite surface, his favorite court—that would truly be something.

With that being said, watchout for Isner to potentially cause some chaos, but for the most part I’d be shocked if Federer isn’t present during the medal round come August 5th.

Semifinalists: Federer, Ferrer

*****

Bottom Half:

Barely winning the Australian Open and having his Novak-Slam stopped by Nadal in Paris, one would think that a nice vacay after Wimbledon would’ve suited Djokovic just fine prior to the Games? Still just 25, it needs to be said that Djokovic won’t get another crack at a Gold medal until he’s 29 and in Brazil. That’s half of a career for a lot of players and considering the grind that Djokovic puts his body through (a la Nadal), this could very well be his last great shot at a place on the podium.

Starting things off against the always entertaining Fabio Fognini, Djokovic’s draw will become more challenging with a potential second-round clash with in-form Andy Roddick. The American has won two of his last three tournaments, and leads the Serbian 5-3 in their overall head-to-head. With no matches taking place on anything other than hard-courts, this encounter is really a toss up.

If Djokovic is to get through Roddick, his draw could include the likes of Cilic or Hewitt in the third-round, Tsonga, Raonic or Monaco in the quarters, and finally, Murray, Berdych, Almagro or Gasquet in the semis.

Loaded with an array of great grass-court players here, Murray’s first-round tussle against Switzerland’s flag bearer Stan Wawrinka could be interesting. Wawrinka knows how to play Murray on any surface, and pushed him to five sets during the 2009 Wimbledon Championships.

I wouldn’t be going out on a limb if I said Djokovic and Murray could lose early, so on that note I’ll pick Berdych and Tsonga to make the semis.

Stranger things have happened at the Olympics and I wouldn’t expect anything less in London.

Picks: Berdych, Tsonga

*****

Gold Medal round: Federer d. Berdych

Bronze Medal round: Tsonga d. Ferrer

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