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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.”

David Ortiz weighed down by Aly Raisman’s medals (video)

David Ortiz, Aly Raisman
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David Ortiz called his good friend Aly Raisman on Thursday night. Raisman had one request for their scheduled meeting for Friday.

“I told him that he had to hold my medals while I threw out the first pitch,” Raisman said on NESN. “I told him he better not forget, but he remembered.”

Ortiz made it a highlight, wearing Raisman’s three Rio medals and plodding as if they were weighing him down before the Royals-Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Friday night.

It was reminiscent of Bryce Harper serving as a medal rack for Katie Ledecky on Wednesday night.

Ortiz and Raisman have come to know each other in the last four years, after Raisman’s first Olympic appearance in London. Raisman, a native of Needham, Massachusetts, has attended a gala and golf tournament benefitting Ortiz’s children’s charity.

She previously threw a first pitch at Fenway following the 2012 London Games. It didn’t faze Raisman that her pitch Friday bounced before reaching home plate.

“My pitch was horrible, but that’s OK,” Raisman said on NESN. “I’m good at gymnastics, so it doesn’t matter.”

Raisman will rejoin her Final Five teammates for a USA Gymnastics tour of 36 cities that begins Sept. 15. Whether she returns to competitive gymnastics is unknown.

MORE: Gymnastics royalty reacts to Biles and Raisman’s Olympic heroics

 

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds