Roger Federer does not have a clue about the turmoil that rocked Indian tennis before the Olympics but the world number one is quite sure that Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna have a decent chance of winning a medal at the Games that start today.
Bhupathi and Bopanna had a bitter feud with the All India Tennis Association after refusing to play with India’s no. 1 doubles player Leander Paes and insisting on being sent as a team for the Olympics.
The seventh seeds will start their campaign against Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury of Belarus.
Paes,on the other hand,has been paired with a lower-ranked Vishnu Vardhan and the unseeded duo will start off against the Dutch team of Robin Hasse and Jean-Julien Rojer.
“I would love to play any of the Indian teams,but Bopanna and Bhupathi are closer to us in the draw,” said Federer,who would be pairing with Stanislas Wawrinka to defend the men’s doubles gold.
“I don’t know why they (Bhupathi and Paes) didn’t play together,but Bopanna is a very good player himself and I’m sure on grass they will have a chance to do very well,” added the Swiss,who won a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title
Federer,a strong favourite to win the singles gold after defending champion Rafael Nadal’s injury-forced pullout,said getting the doubles gold is equally important for him.
“Obviously winning the Olympic gold with Stan in Beijing was one of the most incredible feelings I’ve ever had on a tennis court,” said Federer.
“Hopefully,we can do well again. We haven’t played much doubles of late. Thank God we are seeded,that helped us out a little bit in the draw,” he added.
He won gold in the doubles with Stanislas Wawrinka at the 2008 Games in Beijing,but Olympic singles gold is the one major individual honour to have eluded Federer,with his best performance coming in Sydney in 2000,when he finished fourth.
With Nadal ruled out with knee problems,Federer,who faces Colombia’s Alejandro Falla in the first round,acknowledges his status as the Olympic favourite.
But he knows it could be potentially fatal to let his thoughts turn to another historic success at the All England Club,especially in an event with a best of three sets format that can punish even short lapses in concentration.
“I always thought when I played the Olympics at Wimbledon I would feel incredible pressure,but thinking about it I don’t have much pressure because I already have a gold medal,” Federer said.
“I know it was the doubles and not the singles,but nobody can take that away from me and Stan.
“The margins are a lot tighter in this event. A bad five minutes or a couple of points can cost you the tournament. In this format I would have gone out of Wimbledon against (Julien) Benneteau because I was two sets to love down.
“I’m aware of that,but winning Wimbledon has been a big help to my confidence.
“I played great and I was able to beat Novak. I’m back at world number one so if you put all those things together it could be that I’m the favourite.
“I’m coming back to a place where I have been able to win so often and that gives me incredible confidence.”
Federer’s path to golden glory looks relatively serene,with Spain’s David Ferrer and Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro the most testing opponents lying in wait in his half of the draw.
In the final he could play second seed Djokovic,who opens against Italy’s Fabio Fognini,or third seed Murray,who starts his bid to erase the heartache of his tearful defeat against Federer with a clash against Wawrinka.