This post is being written from SW19 where today Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer made history, beautifully.
It is four years until Wimbledon will be an Olympic venue, but today the most famous tennis club in the world played host to a such exhibition of sporting excellence that the Greek Gods themselves would have struggled to keep up. Rarely do two sporting greats meet in the ultimate arena, and both perform to their potential – but today they did. This summer in Beijing most anticipation will be on the clashes between Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles or the three-way of Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay. If any of these confrontations prove to be half as dramatic as the men’s Wimbledon final of 2008, they will go down in Olympic history for it!
This year’s Wimbledon tournament means that there will be added interest in the tennis competition in Beijing. Added local interest will come thanks to the giant-slaying heroics of Zheng Jie, the women’s semi-finalist who defeated three seeds including new world number one Ana Ivanovic before coming up against Williams junior.
But the men’s tournament is likely to attract more international coverage than it might have previously thanks to events in south-west London today. In defeating reigning five-time champion on his favourite surface Rafael Nadal has leap-frogged Roger Federer in many people’s eyes (if not the official rankings, yet) to the position of world number 1. This remarkable feat was sealed in an even more remarkable match, which Nadal won 9-7 in the final set.
This signifies a tectonic shift in men’s tennis – not since 1981 has anyone won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back – and opens up speculation about who will go on to dominate the coming years of the sport. With only one Grand Slam left this year (US Open), and the end of season masters competition (also based in China, in Shanghai) the Beijing Olympics becomes one of the three most high profile events left of 2008. With the place at the top of the men’s tennis tree in more open contention than it has been for five years the Beijing Olympic tennis competition holds more significance than many people would have expected. Let’s just hope that we can expect the kind of final that these athletes produced today.
Both Federer and Nadal are very aware of sporting history, and so will both be among the top players to participate in Beijing. According to the BBC coverage 17 of the top 20 men and 18 of the top 20 women will play at the Olympics. Bob is aware than Andy Roddick will not participate, although this is not a boycott by any means, but a purely sporting decision. And of course the retirement of Justine Henin earlier this year means she will not be present.
In 2004 Federer was the flag bearer for the Swiss Olympic team, and he is hoping to fulfil this role again this year (via China Daily).
“It’s my birthday on the day of the opening ceremony, maybe I will carry the flag again for Switzerland. I’d be very honoured.”
On the subject of the Olympics Rafael Nadal to China Daily “The Olympics will be important”, and how right he was!