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December 19, 2010

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Federer fancies Olympic gold

WITH six Wimbledon trophies already lining 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-times grand slam champion has stockpiled many records in his decade-long career, but there is one achievement that eludes him - winning an Olympic singles title.

Dressed in a dapper navy suit and tie, Federer settled into a leather armchair in the corridor of a plush London hotel to chat about how much winning the gold will mean to him and how Wimbledon will finally put tennis at the forefront of the Olympics.

Q: How much of a priority is it to win Olympic singles gold in 2012, especially since it's being held at Wimbledon?

A: 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 take part. Rafa (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 for me 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.

Q: Do you think that will be your last chance to win the Olympic singles title or will you stick around for 2016 in Brazil?

A: I will be 35 in 2016. I haven't thought that far ahead 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'd like to play for so long. For an Olympics, I definitely could get up for that, no problem.

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

A: The grass is one part, it being at the Holy Grail of tennis is the second. London, if you see how successful this 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.

Q: At the last two Olympics, you were favorite to win the singles gold. How much does it hurt that you didn't?

A: It's somewhat surprising. In 2000 I had no expectations and I played the semis and missed out on a potential gold. Then missed out on the bronze by losing 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 2004 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 yet know back then. 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. Especially as expectations grew from Switzerland because we don't win 50 medals at an Olympics, so they were hoping that I would definitely get a medal. 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.

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

A: Ha ha. That's why I've had 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 8 August and then winning the gold. I've always had something special happening at all the Olympics. I couldn't choose but Mirka is long-lasting, I've had 10 incredible years and two beautiful kids with her so I guess that's my No.1 pick.

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

A: It being in London will help the cause. We don't have to travel extra thousands of miles to get to the venue as we travel enough. 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.

Q: Will the atmosphere at the London Games be different from playing during the Wimbledon fortnight?

A: 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've heard we might even be playing in color (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.

Q: It will be your first Olympics as a father. How do you think that having your twin daughters, who will be three by then, impact things?

A: It's going to inspire me more. They will understand more about tennis then. They have no clue at the moment but they understand when daddy goes and plays and has the headband on TV, they recognize 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.

Q: 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?

A: Ha ha, no, no, I haven't. It was nice going through a medal ceremony (in Beijing) with the national anthem. It was beautiful and 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 would get it. Because it's so unusual for us to hear our national anthem, when you win (and you do hear it), I think it's a moment of calm. A moment where you can have pictures go through your mind again of what just happened - the last couple of days, hours, weeks and all the effort you put into it. It's a great feeling and I hope it happens again.


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