Rio 2016: First Olympic Games in South America

For the first time since their revival in 1896, the Olympic Games are being held in South America…and I’m very humbled to be part of Rio 2016’s sport production team. Tennis launches August 6th, with the final Gold Medal match to be played on the 14th. As in Athens 12-years-ago, I will team with the Australian Open’s Craig Willis, sharing the load as the “English-Announcers” over nine days of competition.

OLY16-001While several of tennis’ top-names will be absent from the Games, the draws will still be packed with many of the sport’s elites, including Rafael Nadal, who has been sidelined since May 27th with a wrist injury.

Without question, the most-notable absentee will be Roger Federer – who recently made the difficult decision to sit-out the rest of the season to continue rehabbing his ‘surgically-enhanced’ knee. Roger won Doubles Gold with Stan Wawrinka in Beijing and captured Silver in London (bested by Andy Murray in the Final). Many forget that 16-years-ago, Roger was nearly a medalist as a teenager, when he fell to Frenchman Arnaud Di Pasquale in Sydney’s Bronze Medal match.

Defending Doubles Gold Medalists, Bob and Mike Bryan will also miss this year’s Games…directly citing concerns over the Zika virus. Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and Simona Halep have also withdrawn their Olympic eligibility due to the perceived Zika risk.

After Bob and Mike’s announcement over the weekend, 32-year-old Illinois-alum Rajeev Ram got the call from Team USA. He’ll join Brian Baker in the Men’s Doubles competition. Rajeev was actually getting ready to leave Toronto for Atlanta – the next stop on the U.S. Open Series – when he got word that he was needed in Rio: “…I jumped at the chance. I’m really proud to be here, part of this team. It’s a great honor.”

Martina Hingis had the worst luck coming into Rio, not only did her Mixed Doubles partner withdraw (Roger Federer), but her Doubles partner (Belinda Bencic) decided to pull-out of the Games to narrow her focus on the US Open. Martina will now team with Timea Bacsinszky in the Doubles competition.

History

Tennis has a contentious history with the Olympics. While it was one of the premier sports featured during the Games’ initial revival, it fell off the Olympic radar after 1924 – thanks, in part, to conflict between the International Lawn Tennis Federation and the International Olympic Committee. The two main obstacles:

  • Allowing professionals to compete in a global showcase for amatuer athletics
  • Scheduling. With the Olympic Games so close to the concluson of the Wimbledon Championships, the ILTF and the IOC were in direct competition for tournament participation by the sport’s top-athletes

After a 60 year absence, tennis and the IOC worked out their differences, and the sport returned as an official event during the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. Now under the guidance of the International Tennis Federation, professionals are allowed to represent their home nations.

Team USA at Rio 2016:

Men’s Singles:

Women’s Singles:

Men’s Doubles:

Women’s Doubles:

Team USA Veterans in Rio. Venus and Serena Williams

In London, Serena Williams became only the 4th singles player in tennis history to earn the Career Golden Slam (winning titles at all four Slams and earning Olympic Gold). Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal are the only other players who have accomplished the feat.

Venus and Serena both own 4 Olympic Gold medals: 1-singles, 3-doubles. 16-years-ago, Venus won singles gold at the 2000 Games in Sydney. They’ve earned Doubles Gold in Sydney, Beijing and London. In Rio, they will compete for their third-consecutive and fourth Olympic Doubles Gold Medal.

After winning their first Olympic Gold Medal in Sydney, Venus and Serena Williams would go-on to win the 2001 Australian Open title together – becoming only the second doubles team in tennis history to earn the Career Golden Slam. Only Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde had previously attained the honor.

* In London, Bob and Mike Bryan became the third doubles team in history to earn the Career Golden Slam, finally capturing Gold. In Athens, they fell in the Quarterfinals. In Beijing, they earned the Bronze.

Since the sport’s return to the Olympic line-up, Team USA has won Women’s Doubles Gold in 7 of the 8 Summer Games: Zina Garrison and Pam Shriver (1988), Gigi Fernandez and Mary Jo Fernandez (1992, 1996), Venus and Serena Williams (2000, 2008, 2012).

2016 OLYMPIC GAMES – Seeded Players and Teams

Men's Singles:

  1. (SRB) Novak Djokovic
  2. (GBR) Andy Murray
  3. (ESP) Rafael Nadal
  4. (JPN) Kei Nishikori
  5. (FRA) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
  6. (FRA) Gael Monfils
  7. (ESP) David Ferrer
  8. (BEL) David Goffin
  9. (CRO) Marin Cilic
  10. (ESP) Roberto Bautista Agut
  11. (URU) Pablo Cuevas
  12. (USA) Steve Johnson
  13. (GER) Philipp Kohlschreiber
  14. (USA) Jack Sock
  15. (FRA) Gilles Simon
  16. (FRA) Benoit Paire

Women's Singles:

  1. (USA) Serena Williams
  2. (GER) Angelique Kerber
  3. (ESP) Garbine Muguruza
  4. (POL) Agnieszka Radwanska
  5. (USA) Venus Williams
  6. (ITA) Roberta Vinci
  7. (USA) Madison Keys
  8. (RUS) Svetlana Kuznetsova
  9. (ESP) Carla Suarez Navarro
  10. (GBR) Johanna Konta
  11. (CZE) Petra Kvitova
  12. (SUI) Timea Bacsinsky
  13. (AUS) Sam Stosur
  14. (RUS) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
  15. (UKR) Elina Svitolina
  16. (CZE) Barbora Strycova

Men's Doubles:

  1. (FRA) N.Mahut / P.H.Herbert
  2. (GBR) A.Murray / J.Murray
  3. (BRA) M.Melo / B.Soares
  4. (FRA) G.Monfils / J.W.Tsonga
  5. (ROM) H.Tecau / F.Mergea
  6. (ESP) R.Nadal / M.Lopez
  7. (CAN) D.Nestor / V.Pospisil
  8. (ESP) R.B. Agut / D.Ferrer

Women's Doubles:

  1. (USA) V.Williams / S.Williams
  2. (FRA) C.Garcia / Kr.Mladenovic
  3. (TPE) Chan Y.J. / Chan H.C.
  4. (SUI) M.Hingis / T.Bacsinszky
  5. (ESP) G.Muguruza / C.S.Navarro
  6. (CZE) L.Hradecka / A.Hlavackova
  7. (RUS) E.Vesnina / E.Makarova
  8. (ITA) S.Errani / R.Vinci

Mixed Doubles:

As in London, there will be 16 Mixed Doubles teams at the Rio Games. The teams will consist of countrymen and women already competing in singles, doubles, or both. When players determine their eligibility after the start of the tennis event, the ITF will take both singles and doubles rankings into consideration when determining the top-4 seeds for the Mixed Doubles competition.

Olympic Medalists since 1988:

2012 London

Men’s Singles

  • Gold: (GBR) Andy Murray [3]
  • Silver: (SUI) Roger Federer [1]
  • Bronze: (ARG) Juan Martin del Potro [8] – defeated Novak Djokovic

Women’s Singles

  • Gold: (USA) Serena Williams [4]
  • Silver: (RUS) Maria Sharapova [3]
  • Bronze: (BLR) Victoria Azarenka [1]

Men’s Doubles

  • Gold: (USA) Bob and Mike Bryan [1]
  • Silver: (FRA) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga / Michael Llodra [2]
  • Bronze: (FRA) Julien Benneteau / Richard Gasquet

Women’s Doubles

  • Gold: (USA) Venus and Serena Williams
  • Silver: (CZE) Andrea Hlavackova / Lucie Hradecka [4]
  • Bronze: (RUS) Maria Kirilenko / Nadia Petrova [3]

Mixed Doubles

  • Gold: (BLR) Max Mirnyi / Victoria Azarenka [1]
  • Silver: (GBR) Andy Murray / Laura Robson
  • Bronze: (USA) Mike Bryan / Lisa Raymond [3]

Tournament Format
For both the men and women, it was the best of 3-sets, without a tie-break in the 3rd and deciding set. In the men’s singles and doubles finals, however – it became the best of 5-sets, without a tie-break in the 5th and deciding set. Players and teams that fell in the Semifinals played an additional best of 3-sets match to determine the bronze medalist. First year of the Mixed Doubles Competition – best of 2-sets, with a match tie-break.

2008 Beijing

Men’s Singles

  • Gold: (ESP) Rafael Nadal [2]
  • Silver: (CHI) Fernando Gonzalez [12]
  • Bronze: (SRB) Novak Djokovic [3]

Women’s Singles

  • Gold: (RUS) Elena Dementieva [5]
  • Silver: (RUS) Dinara Safina [6]
  • Bronze: (RUS) Vera Zvonareva [9]

Men’s Doubles

  • Gold: (SUI) Roger Federer / Stan Wawrinka [4]
  • Silver: (SWE) Simon Aspelin / Thomas Johansson
  • Bronze: (USA) Bob and Mike Bryan [1]

Women’s Doubles

  • Gold: (USA) Venus and Serena Williams [2]
  • Silver: (ESP) Anabel Medina Garrigues / Virginia Ruano Pascual [4]
  • Bronze: (CHN) Yan Zi / Zheng Jie [8]

Tournament Format
For both the men and women, it was the best of 3-sets, without a tie-break in the 3rd and deciding set. In the men’s singles and doubles finals, however – it became the best of 5-sets, without a tie-break in the 5th and deciding set. Players and teams that fell in the Semifinals played an additional best of 3-sets match to determine the bronze medalist. No Mixed Doubles Competition.

2004 Athens

Men’s Singles

  • Gold: (CHI) Nicolas Massu [10]
  • Silver: (USA) Mardy Fish
  • Bronze: (CHI) Fernando Gonzalez [16] (defeated Taylor Dent)

Women’s Singles

  • Gold: (BEL) Justine Henin [1]
  • Silver: (FRA) Amelie Mauresmo [2]
  • Bronze: (AUS) Alicia Molik

Men’s Doubles

  • Gold: (CHI) Nicolas Massu / Fernando Gonzalez
  • Silver: (GER) Nicolas Kiefer / Rainer Schuttler
  • Bronze: (CRO) Mario Ancic / Ivan Ljubicic

Women’s Doubles

  • Gold: (CHN) Li Ting / Sun Tiantian [8]
  • Silver: (ESP) Conchita Martinez / Virginia Ruano Pascual [2]
  • Bronze: (ARG) Paola Suarez / Patricia Tarabini [7]

Tournament Format
For both the men and women, it was the best of 3-sets, without a tie-break in the 3rd and deciding set. In the men’s singles and doubles finals, however – it became the best of 5-sets, without a tie-break in the 5th and deciding set. Players and teams that fell in the Semifinals played an additional best of 3-sets match to determine the bronze medalist. No Mixed Doubles Competition.

2000 Sydney

Men’s Singles

  • Gold: (RUS) Yevgeny Kafelnikov [5]
  • Silver: (GER) Tommy Haas
  • Bronze: (FRA) Arnaud Di Pasquale (defeated a young Federer)

Women’s Singles

  • Gold: (USA) Venus Williams [2]
  • Silver: (RUS) Elena Dementieva [10]
  • Bronze: (USA) Monica Seles [3]

Men’s Doubles

  • Gold: (CAN) Sebastian Lareau / Daniel Nestor [4]
  • Silver: (AUS) Todd Woodbridge / Mark Woodforde [1]
  • Bronze: (ESP) Alex Corretja / Albert Costa

Women’s Doubles

  • Gold: (USA) Venus and Serena Williams
  • Silver: (NED) Kristie Boogert / Miriam Oremans
  • Bronze: (BEL) Els Callens / Dominique Van Roost [5]

Tournament Format
For both the men and women, it was the best of 3-sets, without a tie-break in the 3rd and deciding set. In the men’s singles and doubles finals, however – it became the best of 5-sets, without a tie-break in the 5th and deciding set. Players and teams that fell in the Semifinals played an additional best of 3-sets match to determine the bronze medalist. No Mixed Doubles Competition.

1996 Atlanta – The beginning of Bronze Medal matches

Men’s Singles

  • Gold: (USA) Andre Agassi [1]
  • Silver: (ESP) Sergi Bruguera
  • Bronze: (IND) Leander Paes [WC]

Women’s Singles

  • Gold: (USA) Lindsay Davenport [9]
  • Silver: (ESP) Arantxa Sanchez Vicario [3]
  • Bronze: (CZE) Jana Novotna [6]

Men’s Doubles

  • Gold: (AUS) Todd Woodbridge / Mark Woodforde [1]
  • Silver: (GBR) Neil Broad / Tim Henman
  • Bronze: (GER) Marc-Kevin Goellner / David Prinosil

Women’s Doubles

  • Gold: (USA) Gigi Fernandez / Mary Jo Fernandez [1]
  • Silver: (CZE) Jana Novotna / Helena Sukova [2]
  • Bronze: (ESP) Conchita Martinez / Arantxa Sanchez Vicario [4]

Tournament Format
For both the men and women, it was the best of 3-sets, without a tie-break in the 3rd and deciding set. In the men’s singles and doubles finals, however – it became the best of 5-sets, without a tie-break in the 5th and deciding set. Players and teams that fell in the Semifinals played an additional best of 3-sets match to determine the bronze medalist. No Mixed Doubles Competition.

1992 Barcelona

Men’s Singles

  • Gold: (SUI) Marc Rosset (SUI)
  • Silver: (ESP) Jordi Arrese (ESP)
  • Bronze: (CRO) Goran Ivanisevic [4]
    (Former USSR) Andrei Cherkasov [13]

Women’s Singles

  • Gold: (USA) Jennifer Capriati [3]
  • Silver: (GER) Steffi Graf [1]
  • Bronze: (USA) Mary Jo Fernandez [4]
    (ESP) Arantxa Sanchez Vicario [2]

Men’s Doubles

  • Gold: (GER) Boris Becker / Michael Stich [6]
  • Silver: (RSA) Wayne Ferreira / Piet Norval [4]
  • Bronze: (CRO) Goran Ivanisevic / Gorn Prpipc
    (ARG) Javier Frana / Christian Miniussi [7]

Women’s Doubles

  • Gold: (USA) Gigi Fernandez / Mary Jo Fernandez [2]
  • Silver: (ESP) Conchita Martinez / Arantxa Sanchez Vicario [1]
  • Bronze: (Former USSR) Leila Meskhi / Natasha Zvereva [4]
    (AUS) Rachel McQuillan / Nicole Provis [5]

Tournament Format
For the men, it was the best of 5-sets, without a tie-break in the 5th and deciding set. For the ladies, it was the best of three-sets, without a tie-break in the 3rd and deciding set. The bronze medals were shared by the players and teams that fell in the Semifinals. No Mixed Doubles competition.

1988 Seoul

Men’s Singles

  • Gold: (CZE) Miloslav Mecir [3]
  • Silver: (USA) Tim Mayotte [2]
  • Bronze: (SWE) Stefan Edberg [1]
    (USA) Brad Gilbert [5]

Women’s Singles

  • Gold: (GER) Steffi Gref (GER) [1]
  • Silver: (ARG) Gabriela Sabatini [3]
  • Bronze: (USA) Zina Garrison [8]
    (BUL) Manuela Maleeva [7]

Men’s Doubles

  • Gold: (USA) Ken Flach / Robert Seguso [1]
  • Silver: (ESP) Sergio Casal / Emilio Sanchez [2]
  • Bronze: (CZE) Miloslav Mecir / Milan Srejber [8]
    (SWE) Stefan Edberg / Anders Jarryd [5]

Women’s Doubles

  • Gold: (USA) Zina Garrison / Pam Shriver [1]
  • Silver: (CZE) Jana Novotna / Helena Sukova [3]
  • Bronze: (AUS) Elizabeth Smylie / Wendy Turnbull
    (GER) Steffi Graf / Claudia Kohde-Kilsch [2]

Tournament Format
For the men, it was the best of 5-sets, without a tie-break in the 5th and deciding set. For the ladies, it was the best of three-sets, without a tie-break in the 3rd and deciding set. The bronze medals were shared by the players and teams that fell in the Semifinals. No Mixed Doubles competition.