London 2012 – Olympic Tennis (Men’s Singles)

It will have been 20 long days since Roger Federer won his record equalling seventh Wimbledon title when the great man returns to the scene of his triumph and he couldn’t have hand-picked a more favourable location in his quest to secure the one thing that is probably missing from his extraordinary career., an Olympic gold medal. Having won the doubles with friend and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka in Beijing four years ago, Federer will be keen to have similar success in the men’s singles at London 2012 and where better to achieve the feat than the sacred Centre Court at SW19.

On form, Federer is very much the man to beat. A comprehensive defeat of tournament favourite and then world number one Novak Djokovic will have done wonders for the Swiss’ confidence following a couple of demoralising defeats to the Serbian. In addition, a commanding victory over crowd favourite Andy Murray in the tournament final basically means that Federer has beaten arguably his two main rivals for the gold medal at the games and Federer wouldn’t wish to enter the event in any other shape. He’s had the best part of three weeks off to recuperate and recover from a niggling back problem so he should come into the tournament in great shape.

Thursday morning saw the release of the tournament draw and in all truth, Federer couldn’t have asked for a better draw. Curiously, Federer may well face Alejandro Falla of Colombia and Julien Benneteau of France in rounds one and two, both of whom he had to overcome having fallen two sets down against the pair at Wimbledon in recent years. Any such repeat would see the Wimbledon champion eliminated from the event as matches are best of three sets (with the exception of the final). I personally wouldn’t read a great deal into those matches and frankly speaking, Federer will probably end up facing Mikhail Youzhny in round two, a player he demolished in the last eight stage at the All England Club earlier this month. Unlike Grand Slams where there are typically 32 seeds, the Olympic Games has just 16 because of the draw being half the size of that in any Slam. As a result, there are quite a few dangerous floaters the top players will likely face earlier in a tournament than they perhaps would ordinarily on tour. As I mentioned earlier however, Federer has been handed a particularly kind draw. The likes of Murray, Djokovic, Tsonga, and Berdych have been drawn in the opposite side to Federer and that looks to me like a very tough section from which to emerge. One has to fancy Federer to advance to the latter stages and competing for one of the event’s eventual medals must be a minimum expectation for the great man.

Moving down to the bottom half of the men’s draw and home favourite Andy Murray will have to come through as tough a section here as he did at SW19 earlier this month. Many people (including myself) gave Murray little chance in progressing far at Wimbledon 2012 but he proved us all wrong and advanced to his first final at the tournament. He’ll need a repeat performance here however with Federer’s compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka up first. Many tennis fans may remember Murray and Wawrinka facing off in a classic four hour contest under the roof at Wimbledon back in 2009 so this won’t be an easy match for Murray. Wawrinka is a dangerous player and should Murray turn up playing anything other than his ‘A’ game, he’ll be left with the doubles tournament alone where he teams up with brother Jamie. I happen to think Murray will be too good for Stan and will face Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen, followed by Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Incidentally Murray faced both Nieminen and Gasquet at Roland Garros earlier this year and despite dropping a set apiece against the pair, he’ll be more at home on the grass of Wimbledon and should see off both players. Next up for Murray would be an entirely different proposition in Czech Tomas Berdych, a player Murray has an inferior head-to-head record against. Berdych will be chomping at the bit to make amends for a shock first round exist to the up-and-down Latvia Ernests Gulbis at Wimbledon and if Berdych progresses past a likely meeting with the talented American Ryan Harrison in round two, Murray and Berdych should square off in one of the most appetising matches of the Olympic Games. The winner will most likely face Novak Djokovic in the last four and a shot at making the gold medal match on August 5th.

Before viewing the draw this morning and having now dissected it at length, I simply cannot ignore Roger Federer’s draw. I had every intention of basing my article around Novak Djokovic and him becoming the first gold medal-winning athlete for his native Serbia but I have been swayed. Djokovic may well progress through his section of the draw in his usual methodical way but there’s no reason why he would reverse the form against Federer, should the pair meet in ten days time. As I say, it is impossible to ignore Federer’s draw and the fact he’s beaten both Djokovic and Murray so recently in these very surroundings bodes well for Federer backers. Given the prices about Djokovic and Federer are fairly similar, I’d be inclined to back the player who has the better recent form and that is Federer. I genuinely think the final a week on Sunday will be between the world’s top two players and with Federer looking to complete his career collection by winning gold, in addition to Djokovic attempting to win Serbia’s first ever gold medal as a standalone country, the final could indeed be an event to behold.

Semi Final Prediction
Semi Final 1 – Roger Federer (2.84) vs David Ferrer (36)
Semi Final 2 – Andy Murray (8.2) vs Novak Djokovic (2.78)

Outright Selection
Selection: Roger Federer @ 2.84

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdquinn86

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