Olympic tennis: Key questions for the Tokyo Games in 2021

Serena Williams, Roger Federer
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With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, OlympicTalk is taking a sport-by-sport look at where things stood before sports were halted and how global circumstances could alter the Olympic picture …

Where did Roger Federer stand on the Olympics?
Federer, whose biggest resume hole is an Olympic singles title, was publicly noncommittal about the Tokyo Games until declaring intent at an Oct. 14 press conference, fittingly at an exhibition in Tokyo. Though Federer hasn’t met the requirement of recent Davis Cup participation, he can still be added to the Olympic field through exceptions.

Federer’s best Olympic singles finish was silver at the 2012 London Games, though he took doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka in 2008.

“It’s not my No. 1 goal, or my No. 2 goal,” Federer said of an Olympic singles title in 2016, four months before withdrawing due to injury from what would have been his fifth Olympics in Rio. “It’s just something I’ve said, maybe I can reach that tournament and then see how it goes.”

Federer, 38, would break Swede Jonas Bjorkman‘s record as the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport was readded to the Games in 1988. Several players in their 40s played Olympic tennis in its previous iteration between 1896 and 1924, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

2021 Olympic Capsules: Track and Field | Swimming | Gymnastics
Beach Volleyball | Diving
| Basketball

Serena Williams is primed for another Olympics, but Venus is a question.
If Federer doesn’t break Bjorkman’s age record, Serena will. Venus, 39, would beat both of them, but when sports were halted, she ranked somewhere around 15th in the U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. Only four can go to the Olympics per country in singles.

However, Venus has a safety net: doubles. The U.S. can send two more doubles-only players per gender. Given Venus is the most decorated Olympic tennis player in history, and has a natural doubles partner in her little sister, it would make sense.

However, the U.S. Tennis Association has several strong doubles options. Its highest-standing doubles player in Olympic qualifying, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, plays with Sofia Kenin, who is the highest-ranked U.S. singles player. Under the 2020 Olympic qualifying rules, if a nation has any players ranked in the top 10 in the world in doubles after the French Open, the highest-ranked one automatically gets an Olympic doubles spot.

Then there’s Coco Gauff 

Coco Gauff likely wouldn’t have made the Olympic singles team in 2020, but in 2021?
Gauff, the 16-year-old American who became a household name last summer, is an interesting case. She ranked sixth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying when sports were halted with half the points of Madison Keys, who was occupying the fourth and final U.S. spot. If Gauff played for any other nation, she would have been a near certainty to make the Olympics in 2020 in singles. For the U.S., it was a long shot.

But Gauff would have also been an intriguing doubles candidate for the USTA (and still could be in 2021). If Mattek-Sands gets one doubles spot, either Venus or Gauff could get the other. Or, if Mattek-Sands and Venus aren’t chosen, the doubles team of Gauff and Caty McNally would be an option.

Everything could be turned upside down, though. Olympic qualifying could be overhauled depending on when tennis resumes and how the International Tennis Federation alters qualifying. It’s possible that 2019 tournaments that were included in Olympic qualifying might no longer be counted for a Games in 2021. If more tournaments are added to Olympic qualifying, Gauff could benefit from the fact she will be older and have less restriction on the number of tournaments she can play.

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