Five thoughts on day four of the Olympic tennis tournament:
Attitudes have thankfully changed since Bill Tilden, a winner of 10 grand slam singles titles, and the star of the 1920s and 1930s, declared that he would not consider playing mixed doubles “because women emasculate genius”. One of the most intriguing storylines of this Olympic tennis tournament – some would say the most compelling – is that mixed doubles is being played at the Games for the first time since 1924. This is a rare chance to see leading singles players competing in mixed doubles in a sanctioned event – the Hopman Cup doesn’t count, as, however you dress it up, it’s still an exhibition.
First, the ‘bad’ news: there’s no Serena, despite all the speculation over the last few months. And there’s no Venus either, with the Bryan brothers choosing to pair up with non-Williams sisters. There is the possibility that the Bryans brothers could end up playing against each other for the gold medal with Mike partnering Lisa Raymond and Bob teaming up with Liezel Huber. Other interesting pairings include India’s Sania Mirza and Leander Paes, Britain’s Andy Murray and Laura Robson, Australia’s Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, and Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus. Earlier this summer, Murray would not have even considered playing in the mixed doubles at the Wimbledon Championships. He doesn’t play men’s doubles either, just singles. So let’s see how he looks in a serious mixed doubles competition. There’s a chance that he and Robson could win something shiny.
Did Novak Djokovic’s one-sided match against Andy Roddick tell you more about Djokovic or Roddick?
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has achieved the impossible – somehow endearing himself even more to the British tennis public. This was a special day, even more than the one earlier this summer, just before he boarded a Eurostar for the grass-court season, when he announced, “now it’s time for a cup of tea”. Tsonga drinks tea (supposedly), he plays with freedom and a sense of fun, he dives around the court, and today he won a ridiculously long tennis match – he took the final set 25-23 against Canada’s Milos Raonic, and the entire match lasted almost four hours. Of course, this was a long way from John Isner and Nicolas Mahut’s 70-68 final set in a five-set match at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships.
Let’s not get carried away after Venus Williams beat Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round. It wasn’t so long ago – at the recent Wimbledon Championships – when some observers were wondering whether Venus would even make it to the Games. Only after Venus has played Angelique Kerber, a top-10 opponent, and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, should anyone start to get all giddy about her possibly standing on a podium.
Does Mardy Fish have to win this week’s ATP event in Washington to justify his decision to skip the Olympics? Or is even that not enough?