Five thoughts on the Olympics.
It won’t just be Andy Murray who is wearing British colours at the All England Club at the end of July. When Murray was unveiled at the Team GB tennis announcement last week, it was no real surprise. It was just a shame there weren’t any other Brits to join him at that point. But this week’s announcement by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) of the full list of entries saw another seven of Murray’s compatriots join him on the team – his brother Jamie, Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins by right; Anne Keothavong, Elena Baltacha, Heather Watson and Laura Robson through ITF places (wild cards). It ensures a strong home representation for this once-in-a-lifetime event on British soil.
It is the strongest ever Olympic tennis field. There has been much debate about the merits of the inclusion of tennis in the Games ever since it was reintroduced as a full medal sport in Seoul in 1988, but there is no doubting how seriously the players now take it. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are just some of the star names who will be aiming for gold. The only top-10 player missing is Marion Bartoli, who did not fullfill the necessary Fed Cup criteria due to her ongoing dispute with the French tennis federation.
The politics can hopefully now be left behind and we can look forward to the Games. Ever since the rankings cut on June 11, there has been countless tales of controversial selection issues from a number of countries, India being a prime example. The announcement of the full entry lists should start to bring an end to the controversy, although Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky is still waiting to hear if she is in as the Swiss Olympic Committee haven’t yet nominated her, despite the fact she has met all the entry criteria.
This could well be the best showcase doubles has ever had. The strong doubles entry list makes for interesting reading, with a number of top singles players giving it a shot. Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka and Serena and Venus Williams will be aiming to defend their titles; Nadal plays with Marcel Granollers; Djokovic with Viktor Troicki and the Murray brothers also team up. With so many top names involved in an event which will have a patriotic feel to it, interest will surely be high and doubles may receive more television time than it would during a regular grand slam tournament. The inclusion of mixed doubles – entries will be taken on-site at the end of July – adds to the intrigue.
The players may feel a bit detached from the Olympic experience. With Wimbledon one hour from Olympic Park in Stratford, it is not practical for the players to stay in the village during competition time. Some plan to stay in the village during the build-up and then move closer to Wimbledon in time for the start of competition – although Federer has reportedly extended his let of rented accommodation near the All England Club from the end of The Championships right through to the Games. Some will get the opportunity to get in the Olympic spirit at the opening ceremony – Nadal, Djokovic and Sharapova are flag bearers – although others may not be able to attend if they are scheduled on court the morning after when competition starts.