SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Nicolas Massu still believes he can retain the gold medal he won at the Athens Olympics despite plummeting down the ATP rankings in the last six months.
The Chilean, knocked out in the first round at four of his last five tournaments and now world-ranked 138, needed a wild-card invitation for Beijing.
Massu, always at his most fired-up when his country’s pride is at stake, believes the Olympics can inspire him to a revival.
“I’m not at my best at the moment and I’m not afraid to say it,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Asked if he ruled himself out of challenging for another gold, he said: “No, not at all, it would be a wonderful dream to win another medal for my country. I haven’t lost the confidence that I can repeat what I did before.”
Massu clinched Chile’s first gold medal in Olympic history when he and Fernando Gonzalez won the men’s doubles in Athens.
The following day, the 28-year-old won the singles as well to set off more wild celebrations around the South American nation.
World number one Roger Federer backed the suggestion that Massu should be given a wild card this time.
“He’s the defending champion -- if he doesn’t get one any more, I don’t know who will get one,” Federer, who goes to Beijing as top seed, said during the French Open.
Massu won the last of his five ATP titles at Costa da Sauipe in Brazil in 2006 and was runner-up in Vina del Mar, his home town, in 2006 and 2007.
He finished last year in the top 100 for the ninth season in a row before his indifferent form slipped to dismal this season.
“I’ve been through this many times before, though on a smaller scale,” said Massu.
“But I’m fine, just getting on with my training, and the problem will be solved by winning one, two or three important games.
“If I win a tournament, I’ll be back up to 80th and everything will be forgotten.”
He added: “I’m under a lot of pressure but there are players who perhaps are under more pressure than me. For example, Roger (Federer), who is nearly 27 and for whom this will be the last Olympic Games where he is at his peak.
“There are other players who will be at their last Olympics and need this title to make their careers more important.”
Massu was just as optimistic of repeating his doubles win with Gonzalez, even though the pair are not playing any warm-up tournaments together.
“It’s not a problem, Fernando and I have known each other since we were 10,” he said.
“When we played at Athens, we didn’t arrive with too many games under our belts...I think a week is enough.
“It would be ideal to play more regularly but the calendar doesn’t allow it.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Buenos Aires, editing by Dave Thonpson)