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Hewitt says beware of Federer in Beijing

Aug. 06, 2008, 9:22 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 Rafael Nadal on Aug. 18 - a day after the weeklong Olympic tennis program ends and 235 weeks after Federer went to No. 1 on Feb. 2, 2004.

``In terms of both of them competing, there is no doubt that Rafa has taken the mantle,'' said Hewitt, a former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam winner. ``What he did to Roger in the French Open (a straight-sets win); I don't think there are too many players on earth that could do that. He destroyed him.''

Nadal followed that up with a five-set win over Federer at Wimbledon.

``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,'' Hewitt said.

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

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

Hewitt, unseeded in Beijing, is ready to 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 said 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.''