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Tennis

Past Olympics greats inspire players of today

LONDON: World number one Novak Djokovic had no doubts when asked to pick his all-time Olympic hero - Italian slalom skier Alberto Tomba.

Roger Federer was equally certain about his choice, opting for fellow Swiss tennis player Marc Rosset, who won gold in the men's singles at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Unable to narrow it down to an individual, Rafal Nadal selected the entire Spanish Olympic team at the Barcelona Games after their 13-gold medal winning return.

To mark the July 27-Aug. 12 London Games, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has asked 35 of the world's top players to explain what the Olympics meant to them and who inspired them the most.

The glossy volume is also liberally illustrated with intriguing shots of them posing with childhood pictures.

""I'm holding a white tennis ball. You can imagine how long a time ago that was," said Federer, recalling the tennis club where he practiced as a child.

Federer, who met his wife at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, was the picture of unbridled joy in Beijing when he and compatriot Stanlislas Wawrinka won the men's doubles. It clearly meant as much as a grand slam victory.

"We're not playing for any money, we're playing for the love of the game," he said of his Olympic experience.

In the book titled: ""Inspire, Aspire: celebrating tennis at the Olympics 2012", four-times gold medal winner Michael Johnson is the most popular athlete selected, the American runner picked by Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils.

Next in line comes swimmer Michael Phelps, who was chosen by last year's Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki.

The globe-trotting players in one of the world's most glamorous sports may be the envy of many but all of them appear star-struck when it comes to the Olympics.

Used to five-star hotels as they jet around the world in opulent isolation, they reveled in the intimate democracy of the Athletes' Village.

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro cannot wait.

""To just be at the village and be part of the big event will be like a dream for me," the former U.S. Open champion said.

Nadal agreed.

""Life in the village is the best experience. For me to be there with all the sports families in the world is something great."

Johnson's advice to Murray is pure and simple when it comes to handling the pressure.

""Looking back, my advice would be to do everything in your power to make the most of the opportunities to make history in front of the home crowd."

 
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