The Backhand

Weekend Outlook

Stuart Barefoot

The Olympics are here. That should be enough to excite even those who aren't particularly big sports fans. Regardless of your favorite sport, it's always fun to root on some of your fellow countrymen. But most people reading this are probably most interested in Tennis, and there will be plenty happening across the pond.
We'll stay in house for our first story this weekend. John Delong wrote a nice piece earlier this week about the WSO players in the Olympics. There's 30 of them, which makes up nearly half of the men's singles field. 30 is a lot, and not only will that help generate publicity for the tournament next month, but as John speculates, the timing of the London games might actually help beef up the WSO field since there are still three wild card spots available.
The logic is that some top players may go deep into the Olympics and not be able to compete in the Masters 1000 tournament in Toronto the following week. That could leave players needing more hard court matches before going to the US Open, and could make coming to Winston-Salem attractive.
Just don't hold your breath while waiting to know who the wild cards will be. Like Bill says in the article, the spots probably won't be handed out until right before it starts.
Olympic Draws:
Men's Singleshere
Women's Singles here
Men's Doubles here
Women's Doubles here

A quick take on things:
It stands to reason that Federer is the favorite to win gold in the men's singles. First and foremost, he's Roger Federer. The name alone means plenty, but the draw is really in his favor. With Nadal out with an injury and Djokovic and Murray being in the same half, Federer should definitely make the semis, but it likely won't be a pleasure cruise. In the first round he's drawn WSO commit, Alejandro Falla, who if you remember, took Federer to five sets to years ago at Wimbledon. He could also face Jullien Benneteau, who gave him all he could handle in at Wimbledon this year. To add another degree of difficulty, the format doesn't exactly favor Federer as the first five matches are best of three sets, a system that lends itself well to upsets. 
Djokovic won Bronze in 2008, and as we already know, has Murray in his half. Safely assuming the Serb beats Fabio Gofnini in the first round, he could face Andy Roddick in a the second Round. Roddick is fresh off of his victory at the BB&T Atlanta Open, and while almost every tennis observer would predict  the Djoker to go to the finals, he's going to have slay some giants to get there. It's the more talented half for sure, as it is also comprised of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Monoco, and Thomas Berdych. Several Goliaths there for sure.
On the women's side, Serena Williams will be vying for her first ever gold medal, which is the only piece of hardware missing from he trophy case. Granted she has won two doubles gold along side Venus, but this is her chance to shine all by herself. She comes in as the 4th ranked woman, and while it's easy to look at her as the favorite to win gold, the three ladies ranked above her are not to be taken lightly. Agnieszka Radwanska, who Serena beat Wimbledon is ranked second in the world. Sharpaova is ranked third and won the French Open, while Victoria Azeranka owns the top seed. 
Other Perspectives:
Courtney Nguyen over at Sports Illustrated breaks down some important things everyone should know about tennis at the Olympics. Since the rules and formats vary from what you may be used to, this is a nice read to familiarize yourself with everything.
No one would bet against Federer going to the finals....sort of. Yahoo! Sports  has a non committal aargument that Federer could win, but he also could not. The basic argument is that on paper he is a sure thing. But they are quick to point out there have been some surprising players to win gold in the past, citing Andre Agassi  (1996) and Nadal (2004) as the only past winners who weren't surprises. Marc Rosset and Nicolas Massu are not exactly house hold names.

Some other tid bits:
The opening ceremonies at the Olympics are kind of a big deal......for most teams. The British tennis team will be skipping the opening ceremony so they can rest.

This story isn't entirely tennis related, but it paints a nice picture as how London will serve as the host city. According to a lot of people, it will be excellent. Big Ben, Queen Elizabeth, the Guards at Buckingham Palace. There is just so much happening in London, it will be a memorable summer Olympics for sure.


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