Anyone who suggests that tennis should not be in the Olympic Games has rocks in their head. The sport was one of the original sports in the modern games in Athens in 1896. It left the Games after Paris 1924 when...
Anyone who suggests that tennis should not be in the Olympic Games has rocks in their head. The sport was one of the original sports in the modern games in Athens in 1896. It left the Games after Paris 1924 when the IOC demanded that in an Olympic year Wimbledon should not be played. The International Tennis Federation rightly told the IOC to take a flying leap. Tennis started to make a return in 1968 as an exhibition sport in Mexico City and did the same in 1984 in Los Angeles. It was in 1988 that it returned as a full medal sport in Seoul and since then it has been growing and growing in importance. To have the tennis event played at Wimbledon (for the second time) is the pinnacle for the sport. In 1908 it was also played at Wimbledon, at the first site of the AELTC on Worple Road. That’s just a bit of background. In London 2012, 18 of the top 20 men and 19 of the top 20 women are playing and there are a record number of tennis players proudly carrying their nation’s flags at the Opening Ceremony. After athletics which takes in so many different disciplines, tennis is next. That is an incredible endorsement for tennis at the Olympic Games. The players who will lead their nations into and around the main stadium are: NOVAK DJOKOVIC - Serbia MARIA SHARAPOVA – Russia (first woman to carry the flag for Russia) AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA – Poland MARCOS BAGHDATIS – Cyprus STANISLAS WAWRINKA – Switzerland MAX MIRNYI – Belarus STEPHANIE VOGT – Lichtenstein HORIA TECAU – Romania Rafael Nadal’s name would also have been on the list but injury has forced him out of the Games a decision he agonised over. This is what some of the players have said about being at the Olympic Games: SERENA WILLIAMS: I played two Olympics, which is pretty awesome, and you know, have two gold medals, which is even better. It's just an experience I never thought I would have. As a tennis player you get to play Grand Slams, which you get to play every other week it seems. You don't think about the Olympics. It's just an added bonus. ROGER FEDERER: I just made the cut back in 2000. I was still very young then. I was only 18, 19. I was obviously able to make the Olympics. That was a big deal for me. Ever since I've qualified, so it's amazing to me that this is already my fourth Olympics. Always something special has happened at every Olympic Games I've taken part in, and obviously I learned a lot as well like living in the Village, carrying the flag, responsibilities, seeing huge press rooms, facing a lot of pressure, winning gold. You name it, there were a lot of things that I was able to take away from the Olympic Games. I hope it's going to be something similar this time. MARIA SHARAPOVA: I've expressed my excitement I think for the entire year already. It's been a dream of mine since I was very young. Tennis in Russia when I was growing up till the age of seven was not very big. Over the years, you've seen how successful it has become in my country and now how important it is to be a tennis player as part of the Olympics. Also it will be my first one and something I've dreamed of since I was a young girl, so I really can't wait. And the honour of carrying the flag: It’s huge. I had to read the text message five times and read it to other people to make sure I got it correct. I got it in the morning after my third round at the French Open saying if I would do something like that. I didn't even know if that was a question, but I was very happy to accept. ANDY MURRAY: Obviously I learned a lot from losing in the last Olympics how important it was to me. It hurt me a lot. You know, I'd never been to an Olympic Games before, before the one in Beijing. But when I lost, it hurt me. When I saw the reaction of the players up on the podium you know, even Roger won a doubles gold medal. If he won a doubles Grand Slam I don't think he would have been as emotional. Even Novak winning a bronze medal and being in tears. You wouldn't see that losing the semi-finals of a slam. So it means a lot to the players. Having it in London is going to make a difference to the support. Playing it at Wimbledon as well is going to make it special. NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, Olympic Games are pinnacle of all sports, in my opinion. I had this honour to be representing my country four years ago in Beijing. I won the bronze medal, so it was one of the best achievements and best feelings I had as a professional athlete. Most of the tournaments that we play actually all the tournaments we play we play as an individual tennis players. There are very few competitions as Olympic Games where we can feel the team spirit, as in Davis Cup. But this is even more. It makes you really proud of wearing your national colours, having athletes from your country coming to support you, going to the Olympic Village, of course the opening ceremony and everything. It is very emotional because it is not just you who matters there, it's the whole nation. So there is a huge excitement going on with all the tennis players prior to the Olympic Games.