Friday, 3 August 2012

Roger Federer, in three-set marathon, shows the heart of an Olympian

At Friday's Olympic semifinal on Wibledon's Centre Court against Juan Martin del Potro, this was the score of his match: 3-6, 7-5 (5), 19-17. The time? Four hours, 26 minutes.

"I don't think I have ever played as long a set in a best-of-three-set match," he said.

We know professional athletes need to put on a good face for the Olympics or risk being called selfish. Just look back to how we viewed American professional basketball players in 2004. But 4 hours and 26 minutes? It some point in that third set, did it occur to him that he had done enough?

PHOTO GALLERY: Today at the Olympics

After all, he has already won a gold medal for Switzerland, though it was in 2008 in doubles. And adding another punishing tournament to a summer already packed with warmup events for the US Open might not be best way to keep himself fresh.

But there is a reason that the press conference for Federer before the Olympics began was the biggest one for any individual athlete. (Yes, even bigger than the one for Michael Phelps.) His 17 grand-slam titles make him a sporting legend, like some other athletes. But who he is makes him revered as an ambassador of that sporting spirit so embodied by the Olympics.

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