Simon Reed

Federer favoured by Olympic draw

Simon Reed

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Federer warms up in London

Roger Federer has made no secret of the fact that the Olympic Games is the missing part of his jigsaw, and the draw for London has given him a huge boost.

The withdrawal through injury of world number three Rafael Nadal has meant that Federer has a nice clean route to the final, with his sternest tests David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro, neither of whom count grass as their best surfaces.

And one of those two wouldn't come until the semi-final anyway, with the draw giving the Swiss master Alejandro Falla in the first round, either Julien Benneteau or Mikhail Youzhny in the second, probably the fading Fernando Verdasco in the last 16 and the not exactly terrifying prospect of John Isner in the quarters.

It really is quite fortunate for Roger as I had feared that his decision to prioritise the Olympics this season may see him suffer from undue pressure. As it stands, he probably won't face a serious test until the final.

Everyone else, meanwhile, has a quite terrible draw. Ferrer and Del Potro have the second-easiest 'quarter', but Philipp Kohlschreiber will fancy himself on grass against Ferrer in the second round, while the likes of Grigor Dimitrov and Bernard Tomic are exciting youngsters who are due a good performance in a big tournament.

World number two Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, has a pretty tough draw, but one I'd expect him to rise to.

The Serb starts off with Fabio Fognini, who is a determined chap and will work him hard but won't cause an upset; Andy Roddick should pop up for the second round and, while he is not the force he was, the American is a big draw, loves Wimbledon and could take a set given these are the best of three until the final.

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Nole enjoying himself in London

Then there is Marin Cilic, always difficult on grass. Still, I don't see Djokovic being threatened until the quarter-finals, but boy what a test that should be — Jo-Wilfried Tsonga keeps getting better and better, stronger and stronger, and the Frenchman is a popular fellow in England and will have the crowd behind him.

Tsonga's year-on-year improvement is as much mental as anything, so I don't see him slipping up — but even if he does, his quarter of the draw boasts some in-form, confident men, including recent Gstaad winner Thomaz Bellucci, the increasingly dangerous young Canadian Milos Raonic, and the wonderfully gifted David Goffin.

I can see a Tsonga-Djokovic quarter-final, and I can see it being quite marvellous. But I still back Djokovic to get through that, and for him to face Andy Murray in the semis.

Provided, of course, Britain's sole men's hope gets through what I feel is the toughest section of the draw.

You'd think Murray would have been helped by Nadal's exit, but the way the rankings have shuffled recently there has been no impact, other than Federer's aforementioned boost.

Murray starts off with what is comfortably the toughest first-round match for any of the top players, facing his good friend Stanislas Wawrinka.

Then you would assume he faces Jarkko Nieminen, who has a score to settle with the Scot after that injury-faking episode at the French Open. That was a quite bizarre performance from Murray, but one which saw him come back to win as the Finn appeared completely bamboozled by his play-acting.

But now there is a danger that Nieminen — who surely cannot play any worse than when he capitulated in that match — will use his sense of injustice against Murray, who has to be careful.

Should Murray pass that test, there is a good chance he would face the resurgent Marcos Baghdatis, who contributed to a quite entertaining match against Murray at Wimbledon.

The Scot won that encounter, but it's another difficult tie en-route to what looks like a last-16 match with the technically brilliant Richard Gasquet.

It all points to a quarter-final against Tomas Berdych, and while I think Murray has the measure of the Czech, it makes for a rather tiring route to a semi against either Djokovic or Tsonga. Hardly child's play.

If Murray does face Djokovic in the semi-final, which is what I expect to happen, I would still fancy the Serb to make it through. Even if Nole has faced Tsonga in the quarters, even though Murray is getting closer every day, and even with home backing for the Briton, I still put it as 65-35 in favour of Djokovic.

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Tough draw for Murray

It's amazing that some people have complained about tennis being in the Olympics. While this year's edition is helped by the Wimbledon effect, and the big guns taking it very seriously, there is also the strength of the overall draw that makes for such interesting viewing.

Men's tennis has a lot of variety in terms of the nationalities of the top players, and that leads to a draw that looks even tougher than a Grand Slam — there are hardly any easy first-round matches for anyone, no mugs whatsoever, and a fantastic repertoire of experienced pros, exciting young talents and two of the best players ever to walk this earth.

It looks like a Masters 1000 draw, with the added bonus of a five-set final. And the way the draw has fallen, everything points to Federer finding the missing link to his collection of titles, the cementing of his legacy.

Provided, of course, he manages the pressure he places upon himself in what will probably be his last Games as a singles player.

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