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Roger Federer is undecided on playing the Tokyo Olympics, with less than two weeks until the qualifying cutoff and less than two months until the Opening Ceremony.
“I don’t know, I feel two ways,” Federer said after winning his French Open first-round match in his first Grand Slam appearance in 16 months. “I would love to play. I wish things were better around the world that we wouldn’t even have to debate the thought of is it going to happen, am I going to play or not. My wish and hope and dream is that I can play it. But it needs to make sense for me, my team, my family, my country. I’m still waiting to see how things are going to develop the next couple of weeks and month.”
Federer joined Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, who said earlier this month that they had not decided whether to play in Tokyo. Novak Djokovic repeated Monday that he plans to play, but if it’s decided there will be no spectators, he may change his mind.
Federer, 39, committed to playing in the Tokyo Games in October 2019. Much has changed since, including the onset of a global pandemic that forced a one-year Olympic postponement.
The Swiss underwent two knee surgeries in 2020, and went 13 months between matches before returning in March. Monday marked his fourth match since the 2020 Australian Open.
An Olympic singles gold medal is the biggest missing prize from Federer’s collection, but he has repeated that he is content without it.
“It’s not my No. 1 goal, or my No. 2 goal,” Federer said in 2016, four months before withdrawing due to injury from what would have been his fifth Olympics in Rio. “It’s just something I’ve said, maybe I can reach that tournament and then see how it goes.”
Federer, 39, would break Swede Jonas Bjorkman‘s record as the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport was re-added to the Games in 1988. Several players in their 40s played Olympic tennis in its previous iteration between 1896 and 1924, according to Olympedia.org.
Federer debuted at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 as a 19-year-old without an ATP title to his name.
He did well to reach the semifinals, falling to Tommy Haas and then Arnaud Di Pasquale in the bronze-medal match, but said in 2016 that losing two medal matches was “the most disappointed I’ve ever been in my tennis life.” More importantly, Federer met future wife and fellow Swiss Olympic tennis player Mirka Vavrinec in Australia and kissed her on the last day of the Games, sparking their relationship.
Federer entered the 2004 Athens Games ranked No. 1 but was upset in round two by 79th-ranked Tomas Berdych (who went on to a strong career and retired in 2019).
At Beijing 2008, Federer was stunned by American James Blake in the quarters and ended a record 237-week run as world No. 1. Nadal took gold and the top spot. Federer did, however, leave with an Olympic gold medal in doubles with Stan Wawrinka.
Federer looked primed for a gold-medal singles run at the 2012 London Games, considering they were played at Wimbledon, where he won seven titles the previous 10 years. But he was swept in the final by Andy Murray, whom he beat in four sets in the Wimbledon final a month earlier.
“Don’t feel too bad for me,” Federer said that day. “It’s not front and center in my mind. But, of course, I’d love an Olympic gold in singles. But I am very happy with an Olympic silver in singles.”
Two of the top three U.S. men said they will not play the Tokyo Olympics — John Isner (saying so in March) and Reilly Opelka (saying so Monday).
Their absences open the door for 20-year-old Sebastian Korda to qualify. Korda’s older sisters, Jessica and Nelly, are in Olympic qualifying position in golf with a month to go. It would mark the first time in U.S. history that a brother and sister compete in the same Games in different sports, according to Bill Mallon of the OlyMADMen and Olympedia.
Correction: Federer lost to Haas in the 2000 Olympic semifinals, not the quarterfinals.
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