If Andy Murray goes on to win the Olympic title this weekend – and how good would it be if he did – he will undoubtedly be asked how it compares to winning a grand slam title. Murray will then point out that he has not won one yet so it is impossible for him to compare but that it feels amazing and that no one can take the gold medal away from him.
A poll on The Tennis Space so far suggests the general public think that the Olympics is not as important as the four grand slams, which is no surprise. That’s not to say that winning the Olympics is not a magnificent achievement, and in Murray’s case, doing so on home soil would surely be all the sweeter, but it can’t really compare in terms of history, or perhaps in how the players are thought of once their careers are over.
There is not that much that can be done to change things, really. The rules for participation are so haphazard – a maximum of four singles players per team and the need to have been available for a certain number of Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties over the previous two years (to become four years for the next Games in Rio) that it is something of a closed shop.
However, the biggest thing that makes it slightly less appreciated, at least in my eyes, is that the ranking points on offer are not enough to give it the same value. I don’t think it deserves the same status as a grand slam event – matches are three sets with only the final in the men’s event over five sets – but surely it should at least offer the same ranking points as a Masters 1000. The events are effectively the same in draw size and in format, so why not make it 1000, instead of 750 (for the winner of the men’s). And while we’re at it, why not make it compulsory, if you qualify and are not injured? Like a grand slam.
I still think making the Olympic tennis into a mixed team event, an expanded Hopman Cup format, might be the best answer in the long-term but for now, why not at least make it a little more equivalent to some of the sport’s biggest events.