What happens to the top players at the Olympics?


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One of the reasons why the players so enjoy competing at the Olympics is the novelty value of the event: the changes from the norm; the sidestep from the normal annual schedule.

It is often hard to work out what happens to the world's top players at the Olympics: some are giddy with excitement at a new, fresh, challenging tournament; others, meanwhile, are indifferent, unmotivated or surprisingly lethargic.

Let's be clear about the context of this summer's Games: the top players have not excelled in recent years, or fulfilled their Olympic aspirations, for a number of different reasons.

In 1992, world number one Jim Courier, playing on his favoured clay, failed to reach the medal round.

In 2000, number one Marat Safin and number two Gustavo Kuerten also went out early.

Roger Federer has played in three Olympic Games and does not have a singles medal to his name.

At the Beijing Olympics, Federer fell to James Blake, who was 0-8 against him going into the match.

The Swiss won Olympic doubles gold with Stanislas Wawrinka at the Beijing Games in 2008, but has never medalled in singles - something which still irks him.

Rafael Nadal described having to pull out of the Games as "one of the saddest days of my tennis career", and there is no doubt how much the top players desire Olympic medals, despite what anyone suggests, referencing past performances.

Perhaps the way Federer and Nadal clearly revere the event has inspired the other players to enjoy and to relish the opportunity to perform at the Games. The enthusiasm of the top players has proven infectious, if the press conferences at SW19 have been anything to go by.

As a result of the remarkable makeover Wimbledon has been given for the Games, the early reaction from the world's best as they arrived was one of frenzied anticipation.

Let's not forget, they had only recently departed from London after this year's All England Championships after two hectic weeks; but all the enthusiasm was clearly back.

For the likes of Federer and Novak Djokovic, this is a chance to get themselves acquainted with the new-look All England Club, and it has seemed as though they had never appeared at the place before, given their excited reactions.

Who would have thought that a few spots of pink and purple to spruce up the place would give the players such delight and prompt such hysteria from certain quarters?

Tennis is often derided as an Olympic sport given the perception that some consider it to not be the pinnacle of the game, but the fervent anticipation from many of the top players told its own story.

Maria Sharapova and Djokovic will carry the flags of Russia and Serbia, respectively; meanwhile, Wawrinka takes over the honour from compatriot Federer. The high esteem in which the tennis players are held among their fellow Olympians is surely not in dispute any longer.

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For Andy Murray and others, it represents a welcome opportunity to focus on the present and the future after bemoaning the past: in his case, the memories of his Wimbledon final defeat are still at the forefront of his mind; the emotions still pretty raw.

"I'm sure if I get close to winning medals or winning the Olympics, then yes I wouldn't be surprised if there are some more emotions," Murray said.

"I've always been very emotional, I just try not to show it in front of the cameras and in front of millions of people. It is pretty uncomfortable at the time when you cannot control your emotions in front of everybody watching."

There is no doubt that the top players are desperate to succeed at the London Olympics, and every star has their own unique and personal motivation for wanting to win, with personal ambition and national pride featuring very prominently.

Maybe this Olympics will see the top players thrive and fulfil their ambitions of securing success at a Games; but either way, no one can accuse any of the stars of not caring about the 'fifth Grand Slam' of the year.

Who do you think will win at these Olympic Games? Post your predictions below...


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Federer still in all white: a class act

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "Roger Federer still adhering to all white even though there is no need #classy" (@WimboGroundsman)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "A week of vacation is exactly right so that I can get over the euphoria of Wimbledon and start training and give everything so that I'm ... ready to hopefully win an Olympic medal for Switzerland." (Roger Federer)

PRESS CONFERENCE RIPOSTE OF THE WEEK: "I actually laugh a lot, just not in front of you guys because your questions are just not that funny." (Andy Murray tells the media pack how it really is)

UNLIKELY PRACTICE PARTNERS OF THE WEEK: Djokovic was apparently left exhausted after practising with Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon. He posted on his Twitter page: "I'm officially back in the office! I hit couple of balls with Maria, trust me - she didn't take it easy on me :)"

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