Next week, the men’s and women’s singles entry lists for Wimbledon will be released. It will consist of the top 104 players in the world, with 16 qualifiers and eight wild card entrants to be added next month. If only the Olympic qualification system was as simple as that.
Ensuring a place in the Olympics tennis event – to be played at Wimbledon less than three weeks after The Championships – has been a major priority for many players this year. This sees the clay-court season taking on added importance as it is essentially the final period of qualification for the Olympics, with the rankings cut-off on June 11, the day after the French Open concludes.
Essentially, being a part of the top 56 on that date should secure a slot in the singles draw, but there are certain criteria to be met before Olympic qualification can be absolutely guaranteed. For a start, each country is limited to a maximum of four players in the singles, a rule which could see world No.19 Fernando Verdasco miss out, with four Spanish players currently above him in the rankings.
Each competitor in the Olympics must also be in good standing with their own association and the International Tennis Federation, and must have made themselves available for Davis Cup or Fed Cup selection in at least two of the last four years, with one of those years being either 2011 or 2012.
It is this rule which will unfortunately see world No.7 Marion Bartoli miss out this summer. The 2007 Wimbledon finalist has been in a long-running dispute with the French Tennis Federation – centred around the fact that her father, Walter, is not allowed to coach her at Fed Cup ties – and has not played for her country since 2004.
Three-time Olympic gold medallist Venus Williams may also be another high-profile player who will not be taking part, unless she can put together a good run on the clay in the coming weeks. Currently ranked No.72, she is reckoned to be just outside the cut – and being the fourth-ranked American, her situation is precarious with Varvara Lepchenko ranked only five places behind.
For those who don’t make it in by virtue of their ranking, they may be hoping for one of the ITF places on offer, which are effectively wild cards. In the men’s singles, there are a total of eight places available and suggestions are that the British No.2 – which is currently world No.143 James Ward – will be awarded one.
The men’s and women’s doubles events will use the combined singles and doubles rankings from June 11 to make up the draw of 32 teams. Doubles specialists in the top 10 will be delighted by the fact that they are reserved a place in the draw with a partner of their choice, provided they have a world ranking.
The Mixed Doubles is the simplest entry format of the lot, with entries made by players on-site – the deadline is on July 31 – who are already competing in the other events. This gives someone like Andy Murray the chance for another shot at a medal on home soil, which could be handy if he was to suffer an early exit in the singles or doubles with his brother Jamie.
For some, the Olympic experience in London just isn’t for them. As it is not a mandatory event, world No.9 Mardy Fish has decided to skip the Olympics for the Citi Open ATP 500 event being held in Washington on the same week.
Fish may certainly benefit from a depleted players field, although there are suggestions that he may not be the only one to give the grass courts of Wimbledon a miss for the hard courts of Washington. We shall have a better idea of who is in and who is out when the Olympic tennis entry list is announced on June 28.