Tennis has 4 major events played in 4 different countries that draw players from incredibly diverse nationalities. This fact along with two globe trotting tours, Davis Cup and Federation Cup may be enough to make tennis a sport that does not need to be in the Olympics. However, if tennis is to be in the Olympics let me propose that tennis switch to the Winter Olympics. Before dismissing this consider the following:
1. Many Olympic Games fall between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. This leaves tennis’ top talent with few chances to recuperate from the grueling French Open to Wimbledon transition before embarking on a hot humid and physically taxing hard court season. Seoul and Sydney did fall after the U.S. Open and received stronger player interest, but even in Sydney the top two ranked players in the world, Marat Safin and Gustavo Kuerten, fell early while popular veterans, Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter and Pete Sampras, sat out the games for various reasons. Even in ideal conditions for tennis such as those posed by Sydney and Seoul no one has the proper energy to fight for Gold after playing 4 Grand Slam events, 7 Masters Series events and a host of other tournaments all over the world. When the Olympic Games fall between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, it creates the havoc we have seen this Summer.
2. Unless the Winter Olympics fall right before or right after the Australian Open, the problems posed by schedule fatigue would be avoided. It would also avert the current reality of playing the French Open, Wimbledon, Olympic Tennis and the U.S. Open in fewer than 4 months.
3. People play tennis in the winter on indoor courts.
4. There is no Grand Slam event primarily contested in an indoor environment. Sure a few retractable roofs may throw in the odd indoor match in Melbourne and London, but there is no “Indoor Grand Slam.” This would help Olympic Tennis stand apart from the regular tours.
5. Subtle rule changes could make a nod to everyday players who play indoors. Since indoor courts are normally rented by the hour and time is precious for the average indoor player, no-ad scoring could be employed by Olympic Tennis. In this spirit, perhaps let cords on the serve could also be played as good if they land in the service box.
6. The Winter Olympics have flying tomatoes and an increasingly Winter X-Games feel to them. Tennis could be a sports oasis for people not interested in watching a snow boarder blow a gold medal due to showboating.
I do not think tennis needs to be in the Olympics as it is already international in nature and has respected international competitions such as Davis Cup. Still, if Indoor Volleyball and Beach Volleyball can both be Olympic sports, why not have indoor tennis represent the dreams of winter hackers everywhere?
PS – I admit I am now too poor to play indoor tennis in the winter so I guess this does not apply to me. Alas, the halcyon days of junior events held indoors are now but a distant painful memory.
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