Since Seoul in 1988, tennis is becoming more and more important with every passing Olympics. All the greatest wizards with a racket will be in London this summer aiming for gold. A presentation of this very special...

Since Seoul in 1988, tennis is becoming more and more important with every passing Olympics. All the greatest wizards with a racket will be in London this summer aiming for gold. A presentation of this very special tournament...

  Athens: the tennis tournament was part of the first modern Olympics in 1896, but for the men only. The ladies would have to wait for four years and would then be excluded from the St Louis Olympics in 1904, a haven of feminism probably... The ladies' doubles would, for its part, make an appearance in 1920 only to disappear 4 years later in Paris, again for unknown political reasons...   Bizarre: tennis made its comeback as a demonstration event in 1968 games in Mexico City - the year tennis would become Open - then again in 1984 in Los Angeles with the promise of becoming an Olympic sport four years later. Two tournaments of which posterity has forgotten the winners...   Couple: between them, Steffi Graf (Olympic champion in Seoul in 1988, the year of her “Golden” Slam, editor's note) and Andre Agassi (crowned in Atlanta in 1996, Editor's note) won absolutely everything: the four grand slams, the BNP Paribas Fed Cup, the BNP Paribas Davis Cup and the Masters.   Di Pasquale, Arnaud: before disappearing early and join the French tennis federation, ADP was a junior prodigy, full of promise, who snatched the bronze medal in Sydney against a teenage Federer…   Elena Dementieva: if, amongst the men, there are many outsiders amongst the Olympic champions, it's not the case for the ladies; Graf in 1988, Capriati in 92, Davenport in 96, Venus Williams in 2000 and Hénin in 2004. The sole exception: the Russian sweep of the medals in Beijing in 2008. A finalist at Flushing Meadows and Roland Garros, a semi-finalist in the other two grand slam tournaments, Dementieva retired at 29 with the Olympic gold as her greatest achievement. Defeated in the final in China, Danira Safina took a long break, at only 25 years old, last autumn, after contesting finals at Roland-Garros and in Melbourne, without us knowing if she will ever come back... As for Zvonareva, please read below.   Federer, Roger: seventeen Grand Slam titles, twenty Masters 1000, six Masters Cups. All that is missing are the BNP Paribas' Davis Cup - where you have to rely on others - and the Olympic singles title. Who would dare to destroy the dream of the greatest champion of all time? In two-out-of-three sets, they are many who are dreaming it...   Gasquet, Richard: Like Nadal, the Frenchman just turned 26. He's entering the second part of his career. No one says it, no one writes it, but the dream has probably passed him by.  Gasquet isn't going to win a major tournament, despite his extraordinary talent. However, what could suit him better than two-out-of-three sets on grass, his favourite surface? Alongside Massu or Rosset, the Frenchman could make an unexpected but believable Olympic champion...   Henman Tim (and Neil Broad): the two English players collected the only medal (silver, editor's note) for British tennis since it became an Olympic sport again in 1988. That was in Atlanta, in 1996, in the doubles against the “Woodies”: Woodforde and Woodbridge. Prior to this, mighty Albion's tennis had grabbed a total of 39 medals between 1896 and 1924, including 15 golds. Though, you have to remember that at the time, the sun never set on the British Empire...   Istomin, Denis: one more ghost of the world's elite (34th, Editor's note) and yet... The Uzbek can be a danger for everybody, especially on grass. He rarely shines in Grand Slams,   Istomin just made it into the last 16 at Wimbledon, his first time at this stage of any Slam. He also defeated Verdasco in the first round of the Olympics. Tall, powerful and making constant progress, he arrives at SW19 in the best form of his career. Only problem, if he beats the Luxembourger Muller in the 2nd round, it means that he will probably have to face Federer next...   Jaziri, Malek: the Tunisian is probably one of the less known players of the top 100. In 2012, he only played 10 games on the main tour and recorded 7 losses but shows up at a nice 77th place in the rankings. Awarded a wild card for the Olympics, he owes his rank to consistent performances on the Challenger Tour. A kind-of fraud, permitted by the rules.   Kafelnikov, Yevgeni: before him, there were Metrevel in the 70’s and Chesnokov in the 80’s: two aliens from the Soviet Empire. After that, came the Western dream and all these Russians arriving in Europe and America. Loyal to the legend, Kafelnikov won two Grand Slams and the Olympics. You have to realize that he was born before the fall of the wall and that on that side, there was never anything better than the Olympic gold with the National Anthem as the soundtrack.   Lleyton Hewitt: as time goes by, we would have nearly forgotten that he used to be world number one when he was really young. From the same generation as Federer, Hewitt had been more precocious but with a meteoric rise, so comes the fall at the highest level. We remember well the 2002 Wimbledon final against David Nalbandian where no one was going up to the net.   Mecir, Miroslav: this « Cat » was one of the unknown geniuses of the game. A finalist at Flushing Meadows and in Australia, a semi-finalist in Paris, he was each time beaten by his fellow countryman, and nemesis, Ivan Lendl. The Slovak ended his career in 1989 at 25, defeated by his back, not before winning the Olympic title in Seoul, a year earlier.   Nadal, Rafael: “The saddest day of [his] life”. That's what the Spanish champion said to announce his withdrawal from the London 2012 games. Apart from his non-participation in the tournament, the former Olympic champion would also give up his place as the flag-bearer of his delegation.   Our friends, the Belgians: Darcis who took down Berdych on the first day; Goffin, full of promise; Wickmayer who will finally get back on her feet and Clijsters, who remains Clijsters: the Belgians could make some noise this year...   Paes, Leander: the people of Frejus on the French Riviera still haven’t forgotten this 39-year-old who eliminated France nearly single-handedly in the quarter finals of the BNP Paribas Davis Cup in 1993. Since then, Paes has mostly shined in doubles, mixed and men’s, with 13 Grand Slam titles and the Olympic bronze in Atlanta, despite never being ranked higher than 73th in singles. In London, he will play the doubles…   Querrey, Sam: We’d have loved to see Sam Querry and John Isner, two giant from the Appalachian Mountains, take the court together in the men’s doubles and pepper the court with booming serves. However, as it is, Querrey will play with Roddick and seeing as the Bryan brothers have a stranglehold on the doubles it will have to remain a dream…   Rosset, Marc: the tall Swiss was predominantly a hard-court player. He went to Barcelona in 1992 to experience the atmosphere, drink and party. Result : without stress and with a bit of luck, he took home the gold medal on the Catalan clay by beating the world number one at the time, Jim Courier, Sanchez and Arrese, who were playing at home, and Goran Ivanisevic. For the last 12 years, everybody in Switzerland has been expecting Federer to walk in his footsteps.   Serena (Williams): just like Roger Federer, Serena has already won an Olympic gold; in doubles. Twice. With her sister Venus. At Sydney in 2000 and at Beijing, four years ago. In Australia, the elder of the family also took home the singles gold. Winner at Wimbledon, like Roger, Serena knows that it's now or never...   Top 20: In contrast to the first Olympic tennis tournaments, nearly all the big guns will be present in London. Amongst the men, only Nadal and Monfils will be absent through injury and just Petkovic and Kanepi from the women. Dolgopolov and Bartoli didn’t meet the entry criteria through participation in the BNP Paribas Davis Cup and Fed Cup. Mardy Fish is also suffering from a heart condition and has prioritised recovery…   Unique: the winners, and even the others, will win ATP and WTA points depending on the tours they will pass but nothing from their federation. That's called the Olympic truce.   Vogt, Stéphanie: the woman from Liechtenstein will be one of the numerous flag-carriers from the yellow-ball sport. Alongside her : Marco Baghdatis (Cyprus), Max Mirnyi (Belarus), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Horia Tecau (Romania), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Novak Djokovic (Serbia) and Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland).   Worple Road: the ancestor of the All England Club, which hosted the Tennis tournament at the London Olympics of 1908. In 1948, the English capital again hosted the Olympics but without tennis that time...   X-factor: Grigor Dimitrov is filled with talent, comes from a country without a tennis tradition and doesn't have yet a ranking worthy of his talent. A good dark-horse bet…   Youzhny, Mikhail: burst onto the scene in the BNP Paribas' Davis Cup final just 10 years ago in a tremendous fifth match against the French  Paul-Henri Mathieu, the Russian, 30 years old, has made it to the quarter finals of each Grand Slam but always falls down against the very best. A quarter-finalist at Wimbledon this year, he would be the perfect outsider if Roger Federer wasn't showing up in his draw in the second round.   Zvonareva, Vera: The third Russian on the podium at Beijing in 2008. She also contested finals at the U.S open and Wimbledon and is still active, trying to improve on her bronze medal from 2008…   By Rico Rizzitelli