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Roger Federer, undecided on Olympics, may need help to be eligible

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NEW YORK — Roger Federer doesn’t know if he wants to play a fifth Olympics in Tokyo. He doesn’t know if he will be eligible.

“Who knows if I’ll have a chance to play,” Federer said before the U.S. Open, according to his apparel sponsor, Uniqlo. “We shall see.”

Asked to clarify on Sunday, Federer said he hasn’t determined his summer 2020 schedule this far out. The Olympic tennis competition starts two weeks after the Wimbledon final.

“As I don’t know if I will be playing, I don’t know the requirements, it was hard to give a proper answer,” Federer said. “I don’t know if I’m actually going to do it or not because it all depends on family, on scheduling, on body, on future. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

There’s also the fact that Federer does not meet an eligibility requirement of having played Davis Cup in recent years. He last suited up in 2015.

But there are exceptions. An International Tennis Federation spokesperson said last week that a national federation can appeal on behalf of a player who does not meet Davis Cup requirements, taking into account considerations including a past commitment to the Olympics (which Federer clearly has).

A Swiss Tennis Federation spokesperson then said that its president has been in talks with Federer. Should Federer request the federation to apply for an exemption, it will do it “without doubt.” That came as no surprise to Federer.

“Naturally it’s always going to be a possibility for me to play Tokyo if there is an exemption,” he said.

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, 38, would break Swede Jonas Bjorkman‘s record as the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport was readded to the Games in 1988. Several players in their 40s played Olympic tennis in its previous iteration between 1896 and 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

Federer debuted at the Olympics in Sydney 2000 as a 19-year-old without an ATP title to his name.

He did well to reach the quarterfinals, losing to Tommy Haas, 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 but looks set to retire later this year).

At Beijing 2008, Federer was stunned by American James Blake in the quarters and ended a record 237-week run as world No. 1. Rafael 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 had won seven titles. But he was swept in the final by Andy Murray, whom he had beaten 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.”

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Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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