LONDON – The Olympic Games forever changed tennis legend Roger Federer's life, long before he finally won a gold medal in Beijing four years ago.
Federer, who holds the all-time record of 17 Grand Slam titles and took the Olympic doubles crown in 2008, is a hot favorite going into the tennis men's singles held on the iconic courts of Wimbledon. For the Swiss master, however, it is the effect the Olympics has had on his personal life that makes the Games so important to him. It was at a lunch table in the Athletes' Village in Sydney in 2000 that he met Slovakian tennis player Mirka Vavrinec, who would become his wife and now the mother of his twin baby daughters.
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"It is one of the most special events in the world, in sports, in life, anything," Federer said. "It is a special thing to be part of and if you can be fortunate enough to win a medal or even a gold medal it means everything.
"But it is extra special for me, of course, because of what it means to how my life has gone."
Vavrinec's career on the court ended in 2002 after she suffered a debilitating foot injury that refused to properly heal. Since then she has been Federer's constant companion, while also handling his public-relations matters.
Federer has regularly attributed much of his success to the stability of his relationship with his wife. He's remained at the top of his profession for nearly a decade.
"It has always been a nice thing for us and our relationship to think about the time we met and the fact that it took place at an Olympics," Federer said. "It is pretty cool that it is the time when we were introduced, and obviously now we have been together a long time and have a family and share our lives and all the experiences.
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"It doesn't make you want to win it more because you always want to win. That is why you play tennis, because you love the sport and try to be the best you can at it. But it just makes the whole experiences enjoyable. When I think of the Olympics I only think of good things. I think of what a great event it is and what it has done for me and my career, and changed my personal life, too."
Federer carried the Switzerland flag at the Opening Ceremony in Athens in 2004 and again in Beijing. As his country's most high-profile and successful athlete he was offered the opportunity to do it again, but politely declined. Instead, the honor went to Federer's doubles partner, Stanislas Wawrinka.
"I felt it was important to give someone else a chance," Federer said. "I told Switzerland they should choose someone else and they then chose my partner Stan. I think that's a great honor for him because I couldn't have won Olympic gold without him and everyone knows that."
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