Andy Murray likes a challenge and yesterday's draw for the Olympic tennis tournament presented the British No 1 with the toughest task imaginable. If he is to win gold the probability is that he will have to beat Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The new Cincinnati Masters champion is drawn to play Yen-Hsun Lu, of Taiwan, in the first round and would probably then face Ivan Ljubicic and Stanislas Wawrinka – who could both give him trouble – before things start to get really serious.
In the quarter-finals Murray is seeded to meet the French Open and Wimbledon champion, Rafael Nadal, who has beaten the 20-year-old Scot in all five of their meetings and will succeed Federer as world No 1 in 10 days' time. Djokovic, the world No 3 and Australian champion, would probably face the winner in the semi-finals.
The major winner in the draw is Federer, who must have been relieved to discover that the three form players of the summer – Nadal, Djokovic and Murray – are all in the opposing half. The Swiss, who will celebrate his 27th birthday today by carrying the Swiss flag in the opening ceremony for the second Games in succession, said yesterday that he hoped to "save" his season by winning the gold medal here.
Murray is playing doubles with his brother, Jamie, and again the draw did the Britons no favours. In the first round they will face the Canadian pair of Daniel Nestor, the world No 1 doubles player, and Frederic Niemayer.
Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic are the top two seeds in the women's draw. Jankovic, who has recovered from the knee injury that scuppered her Wimbledon chances, will replace her fellow Serb as world No 1 on Monday.
"It was my childhood dream to achieve the No 1 ranking," she said. "Finally I've joined that selection of great champions. There are only 18 who have made it to No 1 in the history of tennis."
"To be honest I would like to win the US Open more [than the Olympics] although I would love to win them both," she said. "Both are quite special. I would love to win a medal. Winning a medal is pride for your country."
With Ivanovic and Jankovic seeded 1 and 2 in the women's singles and Novak Djokovic No 3 in the men's, Serbian eyes will be focused on the tennis courts for medals.