Tennis

Stars reveal sporting heroes

2012-07-04 15:04
Novak Djokovic (File)

London - Wimbledon stars including Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have marked the countdown to this month's London Olympics by revealing their sporting heroes.

Federer, six-time Wimbledon champion, and Djokovic, the current world number one, were among a host of leading male and female players who feature in a new book published to celebrate the Olympics.

Just three weeks after Wimbledon finishes, the grass courts at the All England Club will play host to the Olympic tennis event from July 28 to August 5.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Wednesday launched its official Olympic book, titled Aspire, Inspire: Celebrating Tennis At The Olympics 2012, to help promote tennis at the Olympics.

Writing in the book, Switzerland's Federer, the reigning Olympic doubles champion, chose compatriot and 1992 Olympic tennis champion Marc Rosset as his hero.

"I heard of a sudden that Marc Rosset won the Olympic gold in singles and it was amazing news. He was a big hero." said Federer, who will carry the Swiss flag at the opening ceremony in London.

"Knowing Marc later on he told me he didn't even want to go to the Olympics, but he said 'ok let's go and see what happens' and he got the biggest victory of his career.

"It's amazing how things work out, particularly at the Olympic Games. So for me I guess that's always been an inspiration."

Federer himself was picked by Kei Nishikori, who last week became the first Japanese man to reach the Wimbledon third round for 17 years.

"I used to love him when I was younger and he's always my idol," Nishikori said. "I love to watch his tennis. To beat him in the future, that's one of my goals."

Serbian Djokovic, a Beijing bronze medallist, nominated Italian skier Alberto Tomba.

"He stands out as my number one because I come from a skiing family. My father, my uncle and my aunt were skiing professionals," Djokovic said.

"I remember I used to wake up early every morning and stay up at night to watch Tomba ski live on TV. I admire everything he has done."

Spain's Rafael Nadal, who won gold in Beijing, recalled his memories of the Barcelona 1992 Olympics.

"The athletes did fantastic work in Barcelona. I remember the last few metres from Fermin Cacho, that's an image that will going to be in my mind always," Nadal said of the Spanish 1500m gold medallist.

China's Peng Shuai chose former gymnast Li Ning, who lit the flame at the opening ceremony in Beijing four years ago.

"When I was young, tennis was not popular at all in China," she said.

"For the Olympics and the Grand Slams it was just a dream to watch it at home. I never ever thought that one day I'd be there.

"This time at Wimbledon will be different. It's the first time we don't have to play in white. I can't imagine what it's going to look like.

"Maybe everyone should take photos for history in case it never happens again!"

ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti added: "I believe this book shows the impact the Olympics has had on the lives of the current generation of tennis players, and how proud they are to represent their countries in the Olympic and Paralympic tennis events."

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