The importance of the Olympics is not lost on Roger Federer, nor his opponents in the 2012 Olympic Tennis competition. The Olympics come around once every four years and the players are treating this competition with a specialness that may surpass the Slams.
"Every match here for me is like a final." - Switzerland's Roger Federer
"I am just happy to go through for my country. I hope I will continue like this." - France's Jo Wilfried TsongaWith the amount of importance placed on the Olympics there is a corresponding rise in anxiety. Many seeded players looked nervous in their first round matches. Many survived the early round nerves, but not all. Berdych and Radwanska both fell in the first round and Djokovic and Federer survived scares.
Number one seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus also felt the nerves at Wimbledon:
"Your first match on Centre Court, there are always nerves, and today I couldn't get into the match in the second set. There were too many mistakes, but I'm glad I could turn things around and finish as strong as I started.
"I get more nervous when I play for my country than when I play for myself. Hopefully the next round will be much easier."(From www.independent.co.uk)
Often the first part of a player's game to breakdown with nerves are the feet. The feet stop moving and the player becomes to hit the ball while off balance. Another tell-tale sign that a player is nervous is poor decision-making. Hitting an errant drop shot from behind the baseline is often a look in to the brain and the body of the athlete; he or she is feeling tense.
Another source of anxiety in this Olympic tournament must be the draw. It is a 64 draw and most of the top players made themselves available to play. So, players knew they would have tough match-ups from the start of the tournament. Furthermore, the third round will produce top 16 match-ups. For instance, in the second round Tsonga plays young power hitter Milos Raonic from Canada. Now that is a tough second round match!
With everyone around the players talking about the importance of the Olympics and how they are treated with reverence it is understandable that the mentally toughest of players would experience nerves. Historically, the Olympic tennis tournament has been littered with upsets. Look for more of these upsets in the coming week as players not only deal with the pressure of winning in what may be there only chance at Olympic gold, but also for their country under the intense media spotlight.