Does anyone care about Olympic tennis?

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The pristine lawns of Wimbledon. A dominating Serena Williams. Britain’s first home-grown champion in more than 70 years. In 2012, it seemed tennis was truly embraced at the Olympics.

Or, was it?

In the months since the closing of the 2012 Games, some of the game’s top players have committed themselves to Rio in 2016: Serena has set her eyes on trying to repeat in South America, as do the men’s doubles gold medalists, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan, and Rafael Nadal, who was forced to pull out London because of injury, wants badly to reclaim the singles gold he won in Beijing.

But there’s part of the sporting world that thinks tennis should keep to their own “Olympic” events – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open – and stay away from the actual Games.

“Tennis shouldn’t be a part of the Olympics,” says two-time U.S. Open champ Patrick Rafter. “We have our four gold medal events every year in the Slams. For us, winning a Grand Slam is like winning a gold medal for a swimmer. But they only get to do it once every four years. We get to do it four times a year.”

Rafter’s response is perhaps a generational one. Tennis players use to view the Olympics as just another tournament. Olympic draws have a smaller field (64 players) compared to the four majors (128 players).

But Andre Agassi, who won gold at Atlanta in 1996, thinks tennis will only become more a part of the Olympic experience in 2016.

“I think Wimbledon helped a great deal and we have a great platform now to catapult into Rio,” Agassi says. “The guys are taking it much more seriously… it seems like everyone tries to peak for it, which I think is great for the sport.”

Indeed, the Olympics has become a focal point for many tennis schedule makers – and as a career marker for those like Serena and Nadal.

For Pete Sampras, a 14-time Grand Slam champion, tennis only found a place in the Games this year because of Wimbledon playing host.

“The reason tennis was unique at the Olympics this year was because it was at Wimbledon,” Sampras insists. “In Rio, I’m telling you, it won’t be like it was this year. It’s not at the [All England] Club, so it won’t have the same feel.”

Sampras played in the Olympics just once, losing in the third round at the Barcelona Games in 1992.

“Tennis at the Olympics—when I was growing up—was an exhibition sport. For me, it wasn’t that big of a deal to play the Olympics as a tennis player. It’s just another tournament. That’s my humble opinion.”

But Sampras doesn’t agree with Rafter’s point that tennis shouldn’t be a part of the games whatsoever.

“I wouldn’t go that far, but I understand what [Rafter’s] saying. I just think it is what it is. When it comes to Rio, I just don’t think it will measure up to 2012.”

Ragan Smith delivers in first U.S. championship title win

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ragan Smith embraced the role of heavy favorite coming into the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Thrust into the spotlight for the first time in her career, the 17-year-old hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. Smith pulled away from the field to claim her first national title Sunday, posting a score of 115.250, more than three points clear of Jordan Chiles in second place and Riley McCusker in third.

Smith opened up a 1.3-point lead over McCusker in the opening round Friday but admitted afterward she wasn’t particularly impressed by her own performance. She was considerably sharper less than 48 hours later, her 57.850 total in the finals was the best in the 16-woman all-around field by nearly two points.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the 2016 Olympic cycle, serving as an alternate for the “Final Five” team that won half of the available medals in Rio de Janeiro last fall. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez are taking breaks or have moved on, leaving Smith as the standard bearer for new national team coordinator Valeri Liukin.

The program appears to be in solid hands. Smith ditched “The Addams Family” themed floor routine she used last year for something a little more mature. It’s not the only part of her gymnastics that has grown up. Smith finished first on floor and beam and tied for third on bars.

Smith will be in the mix for the all-around title at the world championships in Montreal, where she’ll have a chance to extend the U.S.’s dominance. An American woman has won the world or Olympic title each of the last six years. Barring injury, Smith should be right there.

Liukin said he wasn’t alarmed following an uneven performance by the field in preliminaries, calling it a positive step for a group lacking in experience. The gymnastics were markedly improved in the finals.

Chiles slipped by McCusker into second thanks to a fabulous save on beam in which she turned a near disaster into something decidedly artful.

Chiles was in the middle of “wolf turn” (basically spinning on one foot while in a crouch on a 4-inch wide piece of wood) when she nearly fell over. Instead she rose to her feet, kept rotating, and went right into the next part of her routine as if it was planned all along.

Chiles’ steadiness gives Liukin another option as he tries to put together the rest of the four-woman team that will join Smith in Montreal. McCusker, only recently recovered from foot and wrist injuries, tried to keep the heat on Smith but stepped out of bounds following the last tumbling pass on her floor routine. McCusker finished first on bars — her legs practically magnetized together as she went from bar to bar — to win the event with ease.

Ashton Locklear, like Smith an alternate last summer, wound up second on bars with a watered down routine as he makes her way back from her own injury issues and should have time to install upgrades before Montreal.

Whoever heads to Canada in October will go with the usual expectations for what has become the sport’s most dominant program.

MORE: Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles has competed in the six previous U.S. National Championships, winning the last four, but in Anaheim this year, she’s watching from the sidelines. Biles won four gold medals (team, all-around, vault and floor) and one bronze (on beam) last summer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

This week she revealed she has returned to the gym to prepare for a yet to be determined event, in her return to competition.

When asked how she’s been doing in the gym by NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce, Biles responded with her signature smile accompanied by an endearingly bashful eye roll, “the beginning is…OK.”

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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