Hewitt says beware of Federer

Aug. 06, 2008, 5:46 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING(AP) Lleyton Hewitt says don't discount Roger Federer's chances of winning Olympic gold, despite the Swiss star's recent lackluster play and the pending loss of his No. 1 ranking.

``There's only the French Open and Olympic gold that's not on Roger's career highlights,'' Hewitt said Wednesday after a workout in the heat, humidity and smog of Beijing. ``He'll be trying pretty hard here.''

Federer, who lost in the second round of the Athens Olympics in 2004, will lose his top ranking to Spain's Rafael Nadal on Aug. 18 - a day after the weeklong Olympic tennis program ends and 235 weeks after Federer assumed No. 1 spot on Feb. 2, 2004.

Hewitt, a former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam title winner, says four-time French Open champion Nadal fully deserves the top honor.

``In terms of both of them competing, there is no doubt that Rafa has taken the mantle,'' Hewitt said. ``What he did to Roger in the French Open (a straight-sets final win) I don't think there are to many players on earth that could do that. He destroyed him.''

Nadal followed that up with a five-set, nearly five-hour win over Federer in the Wimbledon final - ending Federer's streak of five straight titles at the All England Club.

``To be the first out of the two of them to win the other person's crown, at Wimbledon, on his least favorite surface ... he truly deserves to be No. 1,'' said Hewitt.

Federer's bad run continued in two U.S. Open leadup tournaments, losing in the second round at Toronto and in the third round at Cincinnati, where he won the 2007 title.

``There is no doubt he definitely hasn't played as well as he normally does on those U.S. hard courts,'' said Hewitt. ``And you don't normally see him have too many average losses.''

Hewitt, who will be unseeded in Beijing after a drop in his ranking due to a chronic hip injury, says he could surprise a few players here.

``I could draw anyone, and if I can get through one or two matches, I can only get better,'' Hewitt said. ``I'll be one of the more dangerous floaters.''

Hewitt says the heat and humidity, not the air pollution, will be most difficult for the players.

``I just finished hitting out there, and it was quite smoggy, but it didn't worry me too much,'' Hewitt said. ``We'll definitely be sweating a lot. It's going to be tough for everyone.''

Australian Alicia Molik, the bronze medalist from Athens, also had few issues with the weather conditions.

``Everyone is in the same boat,'' Molik said. ``I don't really think it's too much of an issue.''