Getty Images

For Venus Williams, Tokyo Olympics an incentive

Leave a comment

Venus Williams sounds more and more definitive about trying to become the oldest Olympic singles tennis player in the modern era.

“I have no plans of stopping anytime soon,” the 37-year-old Williams said, according to an Entrepreneur magazine article published this week. “It seems somehow that 2020 Tokyo is on the horizon. Isn’t that wild? I’m trying to stick around for that.”

If anything is to stop her from qualifying for Tokyo in singles in 2 1/2 years, it’s the depth of American women’s tennis.

A nation can send no more than four players per event to the Olympics. Williams would easily make it based on recent form. She finished the 2017 season ranked No. 5 in the world, her highest placement since January 2011.

But none of her results from this spectacular season — including Australian Open and Wimbledon runners-up and a U.S. Open semifinal — will play into 2020 Olympic qualification.

In the coming years, Williams must keep her game at a high level, assuming sister Serena Williams, U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe, who made two Grand Slam semifinals in 2017, do as well.

Williams could also make the 2020 Olympic team in doubles only if she’s not one of the top four U.S. singles players.

Williams, a five-time Olympic medalist, teased trying for a sixth Olympics both at the Rio Games and later in 2016.

“I am targeting that to see if it’s possible to play there,” Williams said on a TV program that aired last November. “While you’re out there playing, I love that challenge, I love the pressure, it’s all a privilege. If I can be out there, I will be.”

In Rio, Williams won silver in mixed doubles with Rajeev Ram, becoming the most decorated tennis player in Olympic history.

She also became the second-oldest singles player since the sport returned to the Olympic program following a 64-year break in 1988. If she is back for Tokyo, she will break Jonas Bjorkman’s record as the oldest singles player in this era.

“God willing, I imagine if I really wanted to be there, I could,” Williams said Aug. 14, 2016. “So Tokyo is about if I want to be there. If I want to continue to work as hard. It’s a lot of hard work. I have to want to do the work. So we’ll see.”

One American has competed in more than six Olympics — equestrian J. Michael Plumb.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Djokovic suggests change to Olympic tennis format

Indian police probe Maria Sharapova housing fraud case

AP
1 Comment

NEW DELHI (AP) — Maria Sharapova is being investigated by police in India in a cheating and criminal conspiracy case involving a real estate company who used the tennis star to endorse a luxury housing project that never took off.

Real estate firm Homestead Infrastructure is accused of taking tens of millions of rupees (millions of dollars) from home buyers for a project named “Ballet by Maria Sharapova,” a luxury apartment complex with its own helipad, tennis academy and other amenities.

The five-time Grand Slam champion and Olympic silver medalist traveled to India in 2013 to launch the project at a glitzy ceremony. Police began the investigation on Nov. 16.

Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing one of the home buyers, said Wednesday that Sharapova’s celebrity was the reason most people put their money into the project.

Singh said his client, Bhawana Agarwal, paid Homestead Infrastructure 5.3 million rupees ($81,678) in 2013 because she was impressed by Sharapova’s association with the project located in Gurgaon, a suburb of the Indian capital. The cost of an apartment in the swanky project was 20 million rupees ($308,000).

Agarwal then spent the next three years chasing the builders for updates on the property and her investment in it but they stopped taking her calls, Singh said. On Wednesday, several calls to the numbers of the building company’s website went unanswered.

“The project never saw the light of day,” Singh said.

Singh said the police investigation based on his client’s complaint was testing relatively new legal ground – that celebrities endorsing projects that draw vast sums of money from investors had a responsibility “to do some due diligence” on the project before lending their name and credibility to it.

Sharapova isn’t the only international sports celebrity that the real estate firm roped in. Its website also advertises a project with Formula One great Michael Schumacher called the Michael Schumacher World Tower.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Sharapova not fully committed to 2020 Olympic run

Martina Hingis retires, ending unique Olympic career

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Swiss tennis champion Martina Hingis played at her first Olympics in 1996. She announced her retirement Thursday (for a third time), two months after the demolition began of the Atlanta Games tennis center.

The 37-year-old Hingis went 20 years between Olympic appearances, taking doubles silver in Rio last year.

“I think if you asked me 10 years ago if I would be here in Rio, I would say you’re crazy,” Hingis said at the Rio Games, according to Agence France-Presse. “Because I didn’t play for six years and being able to play for gold is unbelievable.”

Her first Olympics came six months before the first of her five Grand Slam singles titles in the late 1990s.

She was the second-youngest singles player at the Atlanta Games, behind Anna Kournikova. Hingis, then 15, lost in the second round in singles in Atlanta but hoped to continue farther in doubles with Patty Schnyder so she could watch equestrian events.

“I have seen the dressage, but I would also like to see the jumping so I hope we can stay one more day,” the Slovakian-born Hingis said in 1996, according to the Independent. “If we lose, I go home.”

Hingis and Schnyder lost in the quarterfinals.

The next year, she rattled off her first three major victories — the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. She skipped the Sydney 2000 Olympics to avoid injury risk.

Hingis missed the 2004 and 2008 Olympics during separate retirements.

Then, in 2011, the still-retired Hingis was asked by countryman Roger Federer‘s team to consider a comeback. She and Federer discussed playing mixed doubles at the London 2012 Olympics but decided against it.

Hingis unretired in 2013, to play doubles, and rose to No. 1 in the world. She won four more Grand Slam doubles titles — giving her 13 total — and six mixed doubles crowns, giving her seven total.

She was to play mixed doubles with Federer at the Rio Olympics until Federer pulled out with a knee injury.

That same week, less than two weeks before the Opening Ceremony, Hingis lost her Olympic doubles partner, Belinda Bencic, to a wrist injury.

Hingis went on to play in Rio with Timea Bacsinszky, losing the final to Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. Hingis was the second-oldest female player in Rio, behind Venus Williams.

Only one female Olympian has gone longer between Olympic appearances than Hingis’ 20-year gap — U.S. equestrian Jessica Newberry-Ransehousen (from 1964 to 1988), according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon of OlympStats.com.

The overall record is held by Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu, who went 44 years from 1964 to 2008.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Serena Williams comments on 2020 Olympics during pregnancy