In the immediate aftermath of her fifth Wimbledon victory, Serena Williams let slip that she might play only the singles and doubles at the forthcoming Olympics, leaving the mixed for others. That might have been a surprise to Andy Roddick, who spent a fair bit of the past year calling on Williams to pair up when the tournament begins at Wimbledon at the end of this month.
Now everything could still change – Serena is well within her rights to make a late decision to play it if she feels like it (and has a willing partner) – but at this stage, it looks like the two American pairs will be the newly crowned Wimbledon champions Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond and Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber.
The mixed doubles is set to be one of the toughest medals to win given the likely strength of the field but on the other hand, with just 16 pairs, anyone who gets a place in the draw will know that if they are hot, they have a great chance to win a medal, perhaps even a gold.
Of the 16 pairs, 12 get direct entry, according to their combined ranking as of June 11, which was the cut-off date for entry, and then there are four wildcards. Players can use the better of their singles and doubles ranking, so, for example, Sara Errani, the French Open runner-up, can use her doubles ranking, which at 3 was a lot better than her singles ranking at the time.
I have spent quite a bit of time going through the highest ranking each player can be to get an idea of who might make it in and who might not. For example, because Canada’s highest-ranked woman is Aleksandra Wozniak at No 56, it means that if she wants to play with men’s No 1 Daniel Nestor, they are still unlikely to get direct entry because their combined ranking, at 57, is outside the top 12 most likely pairings. (they would be good candidates for a wildcard).
Now I know some of these pairings will not actually happen – Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova being one of them – but I just wanted to illustrate the likely combined ranking pairs are going to need to get direct entry. I have also left out a couple of possible pairings that would be highly ranked, involving Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova and David Ferrer, because I know they’re unlikely to play all three events. Some of these are definitely correct – Kvitova has said she has agreed to play with Stepanek and Mirnyi and Azarenka are Belarus’s only choice, if they want to play mixed (and get in).
But if, say, Andy Murray or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga want to play, then they are likely to need one of the four wildcards. You would expect at least one to go to the home nation but the rest are very much up for grabs. Teams can only have a maximum of two pairs and they have until a couple of days into the tournament to finally submit their choices, so we’re likely to be kept waiting for a while until we know exactly who’ll be playing.
Possible list, including combined ranking:
Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka 3 (1 &2)
Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber 4 (3 & 1)
Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond 4 (3 &1)
Agnieszka Radwanska and Marcin Matkowski 11 (3 &8)
Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic 15 (1& 14)
Leander Paes and Sania Mirza 19 (7 & 12) OR Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza 26 (14 &12)
Nenad Zimonjic and Ana Ivanovic 20 (6 & 14)
Juan Martin Del Potro and Gisela Dulko 23 (9 & 14)
Angelique Kerber and Philipp Petschner 27 (9 & 18)
Sara Errani and Daniele Bracciali 27 (3 & 21)
Nicolas Almagro and Nuria Llagostera Vives 27 (11 & 16)
Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova 28 (7 & 21)
Roberta Vinci and Andreas Seppi 28 (4 & 24)
Petra Kvitova and Radek Stepanek 30 (4 & 26)
Just outside likely cut-off
Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic 32 (5 & 27)
Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas 37 (15 &22)
Maria Kirilenko and Mikhail Youzhny 38 (7 & 31)
Daniel Nestor and Aleksandra Wozniak 57 (1 & 56)