LONDON: Roger Federer has backed Indian stars Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna to mount a strong challenge for his doubles gold medal at the London Olympics.
Federer and Swiss team-mate Stanislas Wawrinka took gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing and will be among the favourites for the top prize in this year's event, which gets underway at Wimbledon on Saturday.
But world number one Federer, who clinched a record equalling seventh Wimbledon singles title earlier this month, knows a potential semi-final meeting with seventh seeded duo Bhupathi and Bopanna would pose a serious threat to his hopes of winning doubles gold again.
Bhupathi and Bopanna start their Olympic campaign against Belarus's Max Mirnyi and Alexander Bury after Bhupathi refused to be teamed with Leander Paes following a falling-out with his compatriot.
Paes and Vishnu Vardhan open against Robin Hasse and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Federer said: “I would love to play any of the Indian teams, but Bopanna and Bhupathi are closer to us in the draw.
“I don't know why they (Bhupathi and Paes) didn't play together, but Bopanna is a very good player himself and I'm sure on grass they will have a chance to do very well.”
Although Federer's main focus will be winning a first gold in the singles, the 30-year-old would love to defend his doubles title after experiencing Olympic success four years ago.
“Obviously winning the Olympic gold with Stan in Beijing was one of the most incredible feelings I've ever had on a tennis court,” added Federer, whose first doubles match alongside Wawrinka in London is against the Japanese duo of Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda.
“Hopefully, we can do well again. We haven't played much doubles of late. Thank God we are seeded, that helped us out a little bit in the draw.”