'Olympics, my mission'

Interview

MAN ON A MISSION: Roger Federer is savouring the prospect of claiming an Olympic gold at Wimbledon during the 2012 Games.

With six Wimbledon trophies already packed on to his mantelpiece, Roger Federer would like nothing more than to win a singles gold medal on the hallowed turf when it hosts the Olympic tennis event in 2012.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion has stockpiled many records in his decade-long career but there is one more chapter he would dearly love to add to his memoirs — winning an Olympic singles title.

In this interview, Federer talks about how much winning the gold will mean to him and how Wimbledon will finally put tennis at the forefront of the Olympics. Excerpts:

The one glaring omission in your resume is the Olympic singles gold. How much of a priority is it to win it in 2012, especially since it's being held at Wimbledon?

The beauty of it being at Wimbledon is huge for the world of tennis. At the Olympics, the focus is on swimming and athletics and tennis has been forgotten a little bit. At the last couple of Olympics, we've seen the best players are always playing. Rafael (Nadal) winning the singles in Beijing, me winning the doubles over there, that was great news for tennis in an Olympic spirit. I've now carried the flag twice, in Beijing and Athens, and it's always been a dream to play for my country and to win an Olympic gold. I already have one but still, the special part of having it at Wimbledon will be amazing.

Do you think that will be your last chance to win the Olympic singles title?

I will be 35 in 2016. I haven't thought that far yet and I don't even know what surface they'll play it on, whether it's going to be clay or hard court. I hope in some ways, it's (2012) not my last just because I like to play for so long. For an Olympics, I definitely could get up for that, no problem.

For you personally, what is the main attraction of the London Games? The fact that it's at Wimbledon or that after playing three Olympics on hardcourts, this one will be on grass?

The grass is one part, it being at the Holy Grail of tennis is the second one. London, if you see how successful the World Tour Finals is, how successful Wimbledon is, how much tennis is liked in this country, all these things make this a very very special place to play tennis.

At the last two Olympics, you were favourite to win the singles gold. How much does it hurt that you were unable to fulfil this?

It's somewhat surprising. In 2000, I had no expectations and I played the semis and missed out on a potential gold. Then, I lost the bronze medal match too. I couldn't believe how close I was all of a sudden from a medal at the Olympics.

Athens was disappointing because in '04 I won three majors, I played great. I didn't really play a bad match. It was just really quick conditions, I played (Tomas) Berdych who also loves quick (conditions) and who I didn't know back then yet.

I was caught by surprise by a good, young player who had nothing to lose. It was a tough loss for me... more than maybe Beijing because there I felt my game was not 100 percent on. I ended up losing to James Blake, who I had never lost to before. It was a disappointment as well. But then I was so happy to have won the doubles there (in Beijing) because that came completely as a surprise and that was why the joy was so big.

Which is your most memorable Olympic memory — meeting your wife Mirka during the 2000 Games or winning the doubles gold in Beijing?

Ha ha. That's why I've had a very emotional Olympics. Meeting Mirka in Sydney, carrying the flag in Athens for the first time, then carrying the flag in Beijing on my birthday on the 8th of August and then winning the gold.

I've always had something special happening at all the Olympics. It's changed how other athletes look at me today at the Olympics. I can barely do the opening ceremonies as they (other athletes) eat me up as I wait inside. I'm happy to go through with it because for me it's a dream to be a part of the Olympic spirit. I like being there. I couldn't choose (which one was more memorable) but obviously Mirka is long-lasting, I've had 10 incredible years with her, I've two beautiful kids with her so I guess that's my number one pick.

A lot of top players often tend to skip the Olympics. Will holding it at Wimbledon change that?

It being in London will help the cause. We don't have to travel an extra thousands of miles to get to the venue. Before you had some guys who did not like playing on grass at all so they would just skip it. But now it's different. Everybody today plays on grass. For raising awareness for tennis at the Olympic Games, I think London is going to be the perfect place.

Do you think the atmosphere will be different than playing during the Wimbledon fortnight?

Possibly. I'm looking forward to it and I hope it's going to be somewhat different. Different is good because changes are nice. I heard we might even be playing in colour (clothes) at Wimbledon which is going to be so unusual.

For me, it's going to be extra special as hopefully my kids can come and see a match for the first time at an Olympics. My parents will be able to show up for the first time at an Olympics because they didn't do the trip to Sydney, Athens or Beijing and that's going to be a huge difference for me. I like having my family around, especially for something so emotional.

It will be your first Olympics as a father. How do you think having your twin daughters will impact things?

It's going to inspire me more. Then they will understand more and more about tennis. They have no clue obviously at the moment but they understand when daddy goes and plays and has the headband on on TV, they recognise me and that's great.

I can only imagine in two years how different that's going to be. If they can join me and even sit on the stands for one of the games, that's going to be great.

One of your most memorable celebrations was when you won the gold in Beijing with Stanislas Wawrinka. He was lying on his back while you were comically hovering your hands over him. What kind of celebration can we expect if you win singles gold?

Oh God, I'll be alone on the court so nothing crazy. I hope it happens, I'll be ready to do anything then. I think it was a funny thing to do back in Beijing… but there's nothing in the plans as it's so far away.

Now that you are friends with Queen Elizabeth after meeting her at Wimbledon this year, have you dreamt about her putting that gold around your neck in 2012?

Ha ha, no, no, I haven't. It was nice going through a medal ceremony (in Beijing) with the national anthem. It was one of the more emotional moments of my career. Sure, I'd love to go through it again. At that point I almost don't care who gives me the medal as long as I get it.

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