Olympic Tennis history is on the line at Tokyo 2020, with Ash Barty making her debut, Novak Djokovic in search of a Golden Slam and Naomi Osaka able to become the first Japanese gold medallist in the sport.
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Some of the biggest names in world tennis will be on show in Japan representing their country. There will be five gold medals up for grabs, with men’s and women’s singles to be played from a round of 64, and men’s, women’s and mixed doubles to be played from a round of 32 on the courts of Ariake Tennis Park.
Puerta Rico’s Monica Puig and Great Britain’s Andy Murray won gold in the singles at Rio 2016. Murray is a two-time Olympic Champion from Rio and London 2012 as well, and will be back to defend his crown, while Puig will not be returning in 2021.
There have been some big-name withdrawals in past weeks, with Roger Federer pulling out for Switzerland and more recently Coco Gauff withdrawing after she contracted Covid-19. The 17-year-old phenom will have to wait another three years to make her debut at the Olympics for Team USA.
Rafael Nadal and Serena Willams are other notable names to not be participating, while Australia was dealt misfortune with Nick Kyrgios and Alex De Minaur withdrawing.
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In the men’s doubles, seven different nations have claimed top honours in the past seven Olympics with Rafael Nadal and Marc López winning at Rio 2016.
It is a different story in the women’s singles with the United States claiming seven of 10 women’s doubles gold medals. Most recently, Russian teammates Ekatarina Makarova and Elena Vesnina claimed the top prize.
The mixed doubles only made its return to the Olympic program at London 2012 after a hiatus since Paris 1924. Team USA claimed gold at Rio 2016 with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock.
Australia has one gold medal in its history, courtesy of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde at Atlanta 1996. The duo also have claim to our only silver medal four years later at Sydney 2000, with three bronze medals rounding out the Australian Tennis trophy cabinet.
Homegrown Hero and Golden Slam-chaser headline contenders
Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka will return to the court at her home Olympics. She has had a turbulent 2021 despite her incredible form in Melbourne, withdrawing from both the French Open and Wimbledon due to mental health concerns.
Osaka hasn’t played competition tennis since May when she withdrew from Roland Garros, so enters Tokyo 2020 with question marks around her match fitness and rhythm on hard courts.
Ash Barty, on the other hand, has had the run of her dreams winning Wimbledon for the first time. The number one ranked player in the world was flawless over her fortnight at the most famous Grand Slam in the world.
She generally favours other surfaces to the hard courts of Ariake Tennis Park. But – in the form of her life – that won’t deter the Aussie champion from winning her first Olympic Medal.
Both players are making their debuts at Tokyo 2020, and will be favoured to meet in the later rounds. Barty presents Australia with one of its greatest chances of a gold medal at the Olympics.
In the men’s singles Novak Djokovic will one again be the man to beat, but he ‘only’ has a bronze medal to his name in three Olympics appearances for Serbia. He is currently in the form of his life, having won the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon this calendar year to take his Grand Slam tally to 20 over his career.
If he were to claim Olympic Gold, Djokovic could deliver a calendar Golden Slam with triumph at the US Open later in 2021.
Russian Daniil Medvedev will also love his chances on the hard courts of Japan, and carries special form on the surface. He finished runner-up to Djokovic at the Australian Open earlier in the year.
Aussie contingency features a Barty Party
It hasn’t been smooth sailing leading into Tokyo 2020 for the Australian Tennis Team, but the group boasts seven Games debutants, and a five-time Olympian in Sam Stosur. Throw in a world number one coming off the greatest triumph in tennis and it’s an exciting group to carry Australia’s hopes.
In the men’s, Australia’s chances in the singles and doubles were dealt a big double blow with the withdrawals of both Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur.
Kyrgios had originally been selected in the Aussie team for Japan, but suffered an abdominal strain during his third round clash at Wimbledon. After coming off no competitive tennis since the Australian Open, the mercurial star was on track to progress through to the fourth round at the prestigious grass courts of the All England Club, but was forced to retired after the second set.
On top of his injury recovery, he cited the lack of crowds in Japan as a reason for not representing Australia in 2021. He previously pulled out of Rio 2016 after a disagreement with then-Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller.
De Minaur will be ruing his missed opportunity to represent Australia at the Olympics for the first time. He contracted Covid-19 during a stint in Spain after Wimbledon, and was forced to withdraw as a result. An equally adept doubles player, the loss of de Minaur saw rising star Max Purcell added to the Australian contingency.
As a result of their withdrawal and the rolldown quota allotment that the Tokyo 2020 is implementing for tennis, it leaves Australia with just two men’s singles players in James Duckworth and John Millman.
Duckworth enjoyed a brilliant run in Wimbledon, defeating esteemed players Radu Albot and Sam Querrey and making it to the third round.
Max Purcell – who recently cracked a top-200 singles rank – has been announced as a replacement for De Minaur in the men’s doubles, and will partner John Peers. Purcell is previously an Australian Open men’s doubles finalist, so will be confident of a successful Olympics campaign despite the late call-up.
John Saville and John Millman will be the other men’s doubles partnership.
In the women’s doubles, Ash Barty will partner Storm Sanders. The duo will be well-placed to medal at Tokyo, with Storm Sanders also in brilliant form after making it to the Wimbledon women’s doubles semi-final this month.
Ellen Perez will partner the experienced Sam Stosur as the other women’s doubles team, with the mixed doubles team set to be announced on the 27th of July.
Only two Australian women have more Olympic experience in the team heading to Tokyo than Stosur, equestrian rider Mary Hanna and table tennis player Jian Fang Lay who are both attending their sixth games.
Barty, Stosur, and Ajla Tomljanović are the women’s singles players for Australia. Tomljanović had a career-best run at Wimbledon, meeting Barty in the quarter-finals after a sensational display through the previous four rounds.
Australia will be crossing its fingers for its second gold medal in Olympic Tennis, and can conceivably medal in all five disciplines with the tennis team jetting to Tokyo 2020.
The order of play is set to be determined the evening before each day, with matches beginning on the 24th of July. The men’s doubles final will take place on July 30th, women’s singles on July 31, and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, and men’s singles finals on August 1st.
Tokyo 2020 Australian Tennis Team
|5th (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)
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