sharing the Olympic spirit
OLYMPICS/ Athletes

Top seeds look to play Olympics in 2008
Updated: 2007-09-19 14:27


With the Beijing Olympic Games one year out, many tennis stars have seen the elite event more important than the Grand Slams.

Russia's Elena Dementieva returns a shot to Italy's Francesca Schiavone during their match at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Toronto, August 15, 2007. [Reuters]

Elena Dementieva, fourth seeded here at the on-going China Open and ranked 15th in the world, has been cherishing the chance of visiting Beijing, noting on Tuesday that it's a good opportunity to get to know more about the oriental city.

"I think the Olympic Games is more important. To represent my own country is an honor to me. I hope I can represent Russia again next year to participate in the Beijing Olympic Games," said Dementieva, who had been to Beijing before for the Fed Cup competition.

The season has not been easy for the 26-year-old Russian, who took a long time to recover from the injury and did not hit best level at the Grand Slams.

While Russia's world number two Svetlana Kuznetsova stressed that the Russian team will prepare for the Olympics Games carefully and even "have a chance to win the title."

The 22-year-old rampant Russian, who just finished as runner-up at the US Open and helped Russia to their third Fed Cup triumph success over the past fortnight, has come to Beijing with consistent form and expected to defend the China Open title in the Chinese capital.

High-profile former Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis has also expressed her wish to play at the Olympics.

"Things have been going on in the last few years and I'm looking forward to next year's Olympic Games. That's why I decided to come here and have a look at the city," said the Swiss.

"Also I will visit three places in Beijing: the Great Wall, the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City."

Last year's men's singles champion Marcos Baghdatis took a rare off day during the just concluded ATP tournament to visit the Tian'anmen Square, one of the most famous tour sites in Beijing last Thursday.

The 22-year-old Cypriot, who lost to Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in the quarterfinals, braved the cold and wet conditions to visit what is believed to be one of the largest squares in the world.

"It feels good to come here and play the China Open," said Baghdatis. "The people of China are very nice and friendly. Last year I had great fun, I won the tournament, I have great emotions, first title."

Baghdatis, who is currently No. 18 in the ATP rankings, was also drawn by the the countdown clock, hanging outside the National Museum, for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"Only 330 days until I win the gold medal!" he joked after taking note of the 330 days remaining before the competition gets underway next August.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Baghdatis lost in the second round to Nicolas Kiefer of Germany.

The patriotic Cypriot admitted playing at next year's Olympic Games would be a big thrill.

"It will be fun for sure, going with all the other athletes from Cyprus, and the whole team, it could be fun like it was during the Olympics in Athens."

"For sure my goal is to win a medal for my country. And personally speaking, it's maybe more important (than winning a tour event)."

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