Roger Federer ‘feels two ways’ about Olympics

Roger Federer French Open
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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.

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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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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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