Photo: Paul ZimmerRoger Federer (SUI)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN - Roger Federer’s first round opponent at the 2012 Olympics will bring a wry smile to the face of the Swiss superstar. The first man the world No. 1 must play in his bid for a gold medal is Alejandro Falla, the little-known Colombian who took him to five sets the last time they played – on the grass of the All England Club at Wimbledon in 2010.
Two years ago, Federer lost the first two sets to Falla, and the Colombian served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set before Federer bounced back in five. Then, as now, Federer was the defending Wimbledon champion; he didn’t go on to retain his title.
The good news for Federer is that in his and Falla’s five-match history – which takes in four Grand Slam meetings, and a previous clash at Wimbledon in 2004 – he has a 5-0 record. Falla, ranked No. 51 in the world, competes at London 2012 close to his career-best ranking of No. 48, but he is likely to have his work cut out against a focused Federer.
Great Britain however might be less inclined to smile at the news that Andy Murray is to face Stanislas Wawrinka in the opening round. The Swiss No. 2, who will carry his country’s flag into the Olympic Stadium on Friday, stretched Murray to five sets in their only previous clash on grass here in 2009.
That battle was memorable for being the first full match to be played under the brand new Centre Court roof, and the Brit came through it with the kind of support from fans that he’ll be hoping he gets for all his Olympic matches on home turf. But Murray only leads their head-to-head 6-4, and Wawrinka, at No. 26 in the world, is a dangerous first round opponent for the Wimbledon runner-up.
Federer and Murray have been drawn in opposite halves of the draw, so there is the possibility of a Wimbledon final rematch. With Rafael Nadal out, it could be fourth seed David Ferrer versus Federer in the semifinals in the top half, while No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic would meet Murray in the bottom half.
As anyone who plays Davis Cup will know, Djokovic, Serbia’s flag bearer on Friday, is at his most pumped up when playing for his country and will be gunning for a gold medal to better the bronze that he took home from Beijing. He has a 2-0 record against his first round opponent, Italy’s Fabio Fognini, but could face Andy Roddick in the second round, if the American overcomes Slovakia’s Martin Klizan. That could be an intriguing match-up: Roddick leads Djokovic 5-3 in previous clashes but the pair have never played on grass.
Ferrer looks to have an easy first round match against Vasek Pospisil of Canada, ranked 85th in the world, in the quarter of the draw that he shares with No. 8 seed Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine has a second meeting with Croatia’s Ivan Dodig, having won their first last year.
Wimbledon semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, seeded No. 5, is in the same half as Murray and Djokovic, and has a first-time meeting with Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil.
Other interesting matches in the opening stages of the Olympic tennis event include No. 7 seed Janko Tipsarevic taking on David Nalbandian in a match between two men at their best when representing their countries. Radek Stepanek plays Nikolay Davydenko, and No. 6 seed and 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Thomas Berdych meets Belgium’s Steve Darcis.
In men’s doubles, defending Olympic champions Federer and Wawrinka have a first-round meeting with the Japanese pairing of Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda. The Swiss duo could meet Bob and Mike Bryan in the semifinals, the top seeded Americans bidding to win their first Olympic gold medal after the relative disappointment of taking bronze in Beijing four years ago. Brazilians Bellucci and Andre Sa are the Bryans’ first round opponents.
The first round matches get under way at Wimbledon on Saturday and you can follow all the action with live scores on the ITF Olympic Tennis website.
View the full drawsheets in the Results section of the website.