Friday February 24th, 2012

Roger Federer is prepping for the London Olympics and has his sights set on '16 Rio, too. (Getty Images)

Five for Friday is an end-of-the-week roundup of interesting tidbits from my notebook. Have something that you think needs to be addressed? Feel free to tweet or email me.

1. Rio or bust: Roger Federer, 30, said this week that he has no plans to retire soon and is looking to play at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

During a conference call to promote an exhibition match next month in New York, Federer was reminded that he once referred to the 2012 London Games as the point at which he would consider retirement.

"Yes, I did say three years ago, four even, that I will definitely play until the London Olympics," Federer said. "It was more getting journalists off my back, to be quite honest. I will be playing at the London Olympics but, hell, I won’t be retiring at the London Olympics. My body will tell me when to stop, but I haven’t set the date in any shape or form or thought about it in any way. At this point, I’m hoping to play in Rio."

Federer will turn 35 during the 2016 Summer Olympics. With the way his body has held up, I'd be shocked if he wasn't there. Then again, 29-year-old Andy Roddick enjoyed 10 relatively healthy years before his body started to break down, in rather sudden fashion, last year. Things can turn that quickly.

Speaking of Federer and Roddick, the two will face off at the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden on March 5. I know the players sign up for these exhibitions months in advance, but you have to think that Roddick is cursing the timing now that he's sustained yet another injury, this time to his ankle. Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki round out that exhibition field.

2. A week to forget: Which American veteran had a worse week, Roddick or Mardy Fish?

Roddick, the defending champion, lost his opening match in Memphis to No. 75 Xavier Malisse, who had been 0-9 in the head-to-head series and 0-4 in singles this year. Roddick, whose No. 27 ranking this week is his lowest since August 2001, had won at least one match in each of his 11 previous appearances in the tournament.

But my vote goes to Fish. The world No. 8 skipped the U.S. tournaments and lost his opening match in France to Albano Olivetti, a 20-year-old French qualifier who is ranked 380 spots below Fish. The 30-year-old Fish reportedly received a healthy six-figure appearance fee to join a Marseille field that boasted two other top 10 players in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro. That's three four top 10 players in Marseille, an ATP 250 tournament, while Memphis, an ATP 500 event, had No. 13 John Isner as its top seed.

Ana Ivanovic, who won the 2008 French Open, is now ranked 18th. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

3. Winning a Slam too early: Ana Ivanovic's coach, Nigel Sears, told the Gulf Times that he believes Ivanovic won her first and only Grand Slam title, the 2008 French Open, too early in her career, at age 20. My initial response was one of amusement  -- It's better than winning one too late in her career -- but then I started thinking about it. We hail the late bloomers such as Francesca Schiavone (who won her major days before turning 30), Li Na (29) and Sam Stosur (27), yet tend to rail against the early achievers like Ivanovic or Svetlana Kuznetsova (who won the first of her two majors, the 2004 U.S. Open, at 19). Should a player's early accomplishments fool us into thinking that she can repeat or maintain that level throughout her career so that any dips in form result in her being labeled an underachiever?

One reading of Sears' comments is that Ivanovic's level has normalized since her 2008 triumph and she's finally recovered to the point of now being able to improve her game. But let's assume that Ivanovic never wins another major. Does the fact that she did win one at such an early age mean that we actually view her career as more of a disappointment than if she never won one at all?

4. The small and speedy Maria Sharapova: What happens when a fashion magazine tries to write about tennis? You end up with some observations that leave you scratching your head. Check out this Paper magazine profile of Sharapova. According to the publication, the 6-foot-2 Russian is "relatively petite" and known for her "hyper-speed." Wait, what? And don't get me started on its claim that a "reverse forehand" (or an inside-out forehand, as it's more commonly known) is an "unusual move" in the WTA. Who doesn't have an inside-out forehand these days?

5. The confidence factor: After winning in Doha last week for her third title of the year, Victoria Azarenka seemed to dismiss the importance of confidence in an athlete's game. "I think confidence is very overrated," Azarenka said before putting on her philosopher's cap in an attempt to discount the concept.

"It's something invisible, right?" Azarenka continued. "Something you cannot explain. Every time you step on the court, you try to find a way to beat your opponent. One word, 'confidence,' is not going to help you. You have to go through the tough moments, the pain, the ache, the nerves ... you have to go through all of that. You just have to accept you're a normal human being and you're going to go through all of that. Just one word, 'confidence,' I don't know."

I'm not exactly sure what Azarenka is trying to say here. Embracing the tough times and persevering through the pain seem like marks of confidence to me. I've never heard a professional athlete write off confidence so readily, and let's face it, her willingness to do so is clearly the mark of a very confident player. But if she's right, that confidence is overrated, she should be a good friend and sit down with Wozniacki. The Dane not only lost to Julia Goerges on Friday in the Dubai semifinals, but she also had repeated mental lapses against a player who is talented but known to implode when matches get tight. Wozniacki had a similar showing last week against Lucie Safarova, another player who has a reputation of getting tight. We've grown accustomed to seeing Wozniacki keep herself in matches and win by being mentally tougher than her opponents. That's the edge that confidence gives you. If it wasn't clear before, it's clear now: Woz has lost that edge.

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